When Will We Take Action on Child Homelessness?

Katie Stiel
The Paw Print

A research study by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty estimates between 2.3 and 3.5 million people experience homelessness each year in America.
Out of that estimate, did you know 32.7 percent of children in the San Luis Valley are living below the poverty line? Unemployment, dependency of family or friends, and financial stability serve as a few crucial assets for whether or not someone could fall into the category of homelessness.
Consequently, we all can relate and understand a missed monthly payment, feeling helpless or not seeking the services we need. As adults, it may be easier to re-categorize our priorities and set ourselves back on the right path.
Exceptionally, our path towards righteousness may develop faster if we set aside our pride by asking for help and support before our heavy burden overlaps into our worst case scenario. Consider how challenging the concept of homelessness, poverty and hunger may be for a child. The following depicts child advocacy for children who suffer from homelessness and poverty every day.
Would a family facing the decision to foreclose their home, sell their car or search for food really have time to break down adult definitions of homelessness for their children to understand? The family may strive more on the importance of surviving impulses to provide for their family, than taking time to explain financial hardships or mapping out directions to a safer place.
Life situations such as fleeing from abusive situations, unemployment, not having enough money for a place to live, neglect and abandonment from a parent are a few causes for children to unwillingly live a life as homeless or live in a shelter. Life occurrences such as these may not be explained clearly to a child due to the extreme subject matter.
The communication between guardian and child should remain constant and open. Discretion on specific content and details should always protect the child’s wellbeing and mental stability.
Unfortunately, children living in poverty and homeless situations at times serve as the source of strength for their parents by giving up their childhood to become tiny adults. Bilingual children are often utilized as the primary reference when translating for parents to social workers, landlords, and doctors about their parent’s needs.
Children in these cases are reluctant to describe unfortunate events that happened to their parents and repeat unpleasant descriptions. Children under these circumstances may depend on themselves with self-reliance because their parents subtly displayed they have too many problems to deal with.
Families that seek shelter assistance step positively in a direction for their children. For most children, shelter life can provide a temporary safe haven. A shelter can provide stability if a child’s home consisted of constant violence or unstable support from their parents. Survivors of abuse constantly fleeing from an abusive parent or guardian may understand the effects of alcohol and drugs at a young age. They may also favor the dry shelter’s policy on omissions of drug and alcohol use throughout the duration of their guardian’s stay in the shelter.
Children experiencing homelessness may be glad they are no longer living in a car or outside in cold weather. Most favorably, a child may seek the opportunity to be a child with other children.
Understandably, the thought of hungry or abandoned children can be depressing, but use your emotions as fuel to improve your community by discussing positive ways to serve. For starters, be aware of homelessness in your community and acknowledge their presence by saying hello, smile or be friendly. You might be surprised when you are the first person they have spoken to that day.
If you know someone who has recently lost a job, provide a meal or two. Offer to watch their children for free if they need to interview for jobs again. If someone you know is in need of food assistance direct them to the nearest food bank or explain food alternatives.
Donate gently used clothes to ReThreads, La Puente Home, and Rainbows End. Encourage your children to donate their toys. Remember to donate items that you would lend a close friend or family member.
Utilize the skills you list on your personal resume when volunteering. Organize a food drive collection for the food bank. Write your local representatives to financially support the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act enables K-12 homeless students’ financial assistance for academic supplies, transportation, and equality to participate in the same programs and activities as other students).
Always remember, simple acts of kindness can go a long way. Learn to serve others as you may have once been served or may one day be in need of service.

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