Monday, February 15, 2010

I Don't Mean to Shock You But . . .

. . . did you know that the average age of a homeless person in the US is often cited as . . . 9?

Can that be right? The statistic has been disputed but the National Alliance to End Homelessness does estimate that about 5 to 7.7 percent of youth experience homelessness each year.

This is one child's story.

You can see all 5 parts of the series here.

You may not see them. You may see the panhandlers but you don't see the children. But just because we don't see them, it doesn't mean that they're not there. Where do they go?

Last week, the city of Los Angeles decided to eliminate 1,000 city jobs. Yeah, I know the city is broke. But I don't see how adding 1,000 unemployed people to the population is going to help anyone. That's 1,000 more people in danger of losing their home. That's 1,000 more people at risk of losing their health insurance. That could potentially be 1,000 more families with 1,000s more children at risk of falling in with gangs, selling drugs, dropping out of school and more, all so that the city can save the costs of 1,000 workers in the short-term.

When so many are struggling, shouldn't government create jobs, not eliminate them?

Think, Mr. Mayor. Think! Think of the long-term.

The homeless problem isn't about cleaning up a public nuisance. This isn't about making downtown safer or more business friendly. This is a national security issue. One day, and probably one day soon, extremist terrorist organizations won't have to recruit from Somalia or Yemen to plan attacks on the U.S. The children who are now growing up on our streets are ripe for recruitment. They are ready and willing to fall under the spell of some charismatic leader. These children have no investment in our society. I've written in the past, here and here and here, about class division and disenfranchisement and the elements of the population who have no investment in the community. One day, it won't be about tagging, or litter or class struggles between hipsters and bobos. One day, it will be about real destruction.

All that blather from the last administration about fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here - why do I have to be the one to say this? They are here and they are here now. They're just not trained yet.

On this President's Day weekend, if I had the attention of the President, I would say, "Can we please take the billions of dollars that we are sinking into failing wars and invest in these kids now?"

We need BOTH jobs and health care reform to prevent more families from falling into the state of homelessness. We need an aggressive effort to lift up the families that are already there.

Solid statistic or not - remember that number. 9. If it's not true now don't let it be true, ever.


brismod said...

What a tragedy. It seems crazy that children from a prosperous nation are living in almost 3rd world conditions. It happens here too.

Jayne said...

My son Brian (the one in Afghanistan) and I were just talking about this very thing a few days ago, how even a small percentage of what's being spent now on wars could make such an enormous difference to children in America. My friend Birda is a teacher in a rural area here in Missouri and says that the school district now sends food home with some children on the weekends. It's good that they are so kind to do that, but it's terribly sad that they have to.

Why S? said...

Our safety nets have failed us on every level. We don't have a national health care system thus insuring that illness or injury will send some families into the streets. We send manufacturing jobs overseas thus insuring that working class families will be deprived of jobs. We don't sufficiently fund education at all levels and we continue to reduce student grants and loans, limiting access to higher education. We don't properly fund mental health services. Historically, we've had a ridiculous anti-drug policy that emphasizes enforcement over treatment and that has the added effect of heightening the profitability of drug dealing, luring more young people into the business.

It's an institutional problem, all across the board.

Jayne said...

I absolutely agree with you! It's very sad and also frightening.

オテモヤン said...
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