(August 21, 2013) Families on the streets of our grand cities should not come as a surprise. Families forced to sleep on the streets of New York made the news last Spring….and homeless families hide on the streets of Los Angeles every night.
Families with children are “the hidden homeless” and our social policies continue to fail them. It must seem somewhat confusing to the public at-large that homeless families are forced to “make a stand” to bring attention to their plight. Most people believe that our government has “programs to help” and if you engage them in discussion about poverty, low incomes, and the high cost of rent, they still believe deep in their hearts that it is “personal failure” that causes poverty, with some people just destined to be poor. It’s difficult to convince them that homeless families represent just the “tip of the iceberg” of entrenched poverty and suffering for increasing numbers of families in America – caused by a civil society that has chosen to “ignore” them in the hopes that they will keep quiet and eventually go away.
And so I praise these mothers for sharing their desperation by coming out into the glare of publicity as they have. Rental housing that is affordable provides the vital base that enables parents to make the right decisions, to care properly for their children, to make plans for the future, to help a child with homework, to prepare healthy food for her family, to keep seeking that elusive job…. Our government could easily remedy this situation by expanding access to rent subsidizes, at least while a family gets back on their feet. Current poorly-funded programs have demonstrated that this works, but the majority of families who might qualify cannot access this support. If our government does not want to recognize the man-made disaster in front of them, then they must repair the tattered “safety net” dismantled in the 1990’s through Welfare Reform. When your incomes are too low to afford the rent, when paychecks barely cover food and child care, when no matter how loud you cry for help, no one hears you and no one cares…then you should probably sleep on the streets and make the rest of us hear your voice! Kudos!!!
Tanya Tull, ScD – Partnering for Change