I’m from a small Midwestern town with a demographic that runs the gamut in terms of economic status. Personally, I identify as the middle- to lower-class, and I’m unashamed of it. But one thing we have little to none of in this town? Homelessness.
I’ve been shielded from witnessing tents that were someone’s bedroom, cardboard boxes used as shelter from the cold, and cars doubling as transportation and a home. So I think it goes without saying, I was ignorant to the fact that families and children account for one-third of homelessness in America.
Mary Abbott, Indiana mother of two who previously lived at the Dream Center in L.A., and regularly worked with homeless and housing insecure persons, had her perspective on homelessness drastically changed once she became a mother. Because in today’s world, the evidence of children and families living on the streets in big cities is undeniable.
“The cost of living in LA is ridiculous and if you didn’t have family that could help financially, there wouldn’t be much of a choice, except to be homeless,” Abbott tells Scary Mommy. “We saw a lot of evidence of homeless families. Seeing their toys and clothes outside of their tents is heartbreaking.”
Along with the mental trauma that comes from being homeless, also comes physical trauma for families and children too. And considering parents want to keep their family intact, avoiding intervention from child protective services at all costs, many mothers and fathers keep their families hidden out of survival instinct.
These families are food insecure and hungry, some are even malnourished. Most of them aren’t able to practice proper hygiene and are wearing improper clothes for the season. To put it plainly, they aren’t being given the support they need to better their current situation.
America’s economical structure has failed many people. The cost of living is outrageous, and even with two adults working minimum wage jobs, it’s not enough. The minimum wage is too low, and families are struggling.
And as it turns out, current society isn’t making life for those who are homeless in our nation any easier either. In 2018, around Thanksgiving, an organization called Free Hot Soup KC tried serving hot meals to the homeless. But due to their lack of food-handling permits, Kansas City Health Department drenched the food in bleach, making it inedible.
It often seems like folks are being further punished and ostracized for their struggles. People need to eat. Denying food to hungry people, and destroying it in front of their eyes, is downright inhumane.
According to Family Promise, a national non-profit helping U.S. families, 75% of homeless children in public schools did not qualify for assistance by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). And roughly 40% of all homeless children are under six years old. This is an outrage.
At the end of September 2019, a federal funding application was submitted which would make Chicago homeless programs — like HUD and Ignite (a 1-2 year Chicago program which offers financial assistance, support, and housing) — a “lower priority” when receiving funding. Jen Linas, executive director of Ignite, tells the Chicago Tribune, “Here we are trying to prevent adult homelessness by intervening at a younger age and yet it feels like we’re not being prioritized.”
This is a lack of compassion, understanding, empathy and action on behalf of those who are less fortunate in America, and it seems little to nothing is being done about by those who carry a place of power in our country. And until we see the causes of homelessness recognized by our government nationally, we will not be able to lift these families out of poverty.
Our people aren’t being given a fighting chance at making it out of this sweltering economical disaster we live in.
And enough is enough.
We have children who are hungry and vulnerable, because they don’t have basic resources. They are lacking food, water, shelter. People can’t afford proper medical care. Daycare prices are unattainable when mixed with the high price of housing and inflated cost of living, especially when wages do not match said inflation. It’s like the song that doesn’t end and it’s unfair.
America is supposed to be a nation of opportunity, and we have a long way to go.