Hidden for Now
Due to budget constraints and lack of funding, many shelter environments are squeezing out a family at risk due to eligibility requirements Richard Schweid explains in this article how challenging it’s become on families on the move toward support. The history behind us always should be used as a catalyst toward more promising hope.
Homeless in Gwinnett County are for the most part hidden and unseen. Families especially have no place to dwell. Staying in hotels, or in cars makes it very difficult to draw data or determine their travels. Homeless families with child in 1980 was merely 1%, but in 2014 it grew to nearly 38% (nationwide) a statistic telling us we’re a growing society in transition… but to where?
It’s difficult to collect meaningful data on a population that frequently moves, but what is collected exposes appalling conditions. Homeless children, for example have the same ills as those of impoverished children who are housed, but magnified. They have more chronic ills like asthma, ear infections, malnutrition, stammering, eczema. With few places to crawl and explore as babies, or to play as kids, or few chances to get truly settled in at school, they often have delayed development and behavioral problems. With extreme volatility in their daily lives, they are more frequently the witnesses to, or victims of, violence or sexual abuse.
The question is, and has always been, who among the poor deserves our help and how much of it should we provide?
In Colonial America, there were citizens viewed as hard workers who’d fallen on tough times, and there were the “idle poor” (a term President Reagan would rename as “welfare queen”). But for the most part, poverty was seen as “an economic problem with an economic solution.” To help their own families, impoverished children were temporarily sent out to other families to work in exchange for housing.
Tension between a no-fault and idle-poor view would weave its way throughout our history, as with President Johnson’s 1960s War on Poverty with assistance agencies like Head Start and Job Corps, and President Clinton’s 1990s welfare reform titled Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act.
Vivid portraits of the day-to-day struggles, are often overwhelmed by the narrative of statistics. This hidden segment suffers many health ills which only add tension to the already limited list of housing options. Using a wide lens on this considerable topic is admirable, but tightening the view, with a more determined set of data, may make some of the accounts of agencies and policies more memorable.
Thought easily places itself in the mind of those who can’t identify. For those who do, only survival remains. Needing to believe we all matter in terms of the issue, leads us into innovations that work. Partner with us to discover how a creative bend in thought can straighten out the difficult hurdle quickly approaching. Developing options for people toward affordable housing so they can be in the stream towards employment certainly can benefit the local community, which may save money in the form of less crime and fewer strains on schools and emergency services.