Tag Archive for homeless children

Teen Overcomes Homelessness, Excels in College

PotentialMost people just walk right by the homeless. People living on the street are often viewed as the detritus of society, failed lives with no potential for betterment. Not to say that everyone feels this way, but there is a large segment of the population that does.

Just as with any other segment of the population, this sort of generalization is incorrect. This is especially true of the children, more of whom are living on the streets every day. A child is not responsible for his or her situation, and children are the embodiment of potential.  The ability to realize that potential is harshly curtailed when one is homeless. Still, there are those who manage to triumph over the odds stacked against them.

Sarah Auffret, who writes for the Arizona State University News, brings us one such story, the story of an amazing young woman named Mona:

When she and her mother had to sleep on the street, Romonia ‘Mona’ Dixon would pull out a bag of books she brought home from elementary school and read by the street light. She’d cover up with her mother’s jacket and pretend she was one of the characters in a book, and it made her feel safe.

That was just a few years ago, on the nights when the homeless shelters in San Diego were full. When she was 10 they moved to Tempe, where they continued to live in shelters until the family got into public housing.

Now, seven years later, Mona is a freshman residing in Barrett, the Honors College. She was literally one amongst thousands in the running for the National Youth of the Year award given by the Boys & Girls Clubs last fall, and has accrued over $100,000 in scholarship funds. We’d say this indicates potential. Vast potential.

In this era of financial chaos, you never know who it is you walk past as that person settles down for the night on a street corner. Amazing talents and potential are almost certainly being squandered due to the simple lack of opportunity.

Source: “Student overcomes homelessness to achieve, inspire others,” Arizona State University News, 10/07/10
Image by M0les, used under its Creative Commons license.

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Invisible Families: Increase in Homelessness Among Families

Homeless motherThe Seattle Times recently did a multi-part series on the issue of homelessness in the area. One of the things that came to light in this series was that the fastest growing demographic entering the homeless life is that of parents with children. In addition to the obvious issues — lack of a roof and safety on the streets, having to care for multiple people, etc. — there are further downsides presented by the way that the homeless aid is structured.

This excerpt from an anonymous editorial in the The Seattle Times series sums it up:

But homeless families face unique challenges. They’re often invisible to social-service agencies because they prefer to double up on a friend’s couch than to sleep on the street. Shelters are often already full, space taken by those on the long wait list for public housing and subsidized Section 8 housing.

Do a little Googling around, and you will find that this is true in many other places in the U.S. For instance, Florida and Pennsylvania are the two states that come up on top in search results.

It’s an unusual situation. Services are not optimized for family assistance. Sometimes the families still have vehicles or belongings they have managed to preserve. Addiction issues are nowhere near as prevalent. The list goes on.

As with the other homeless across the U.S., homeless families are in danger of simply being statistics to most people. This is why it is important to put faces on these dry facts, and allow the actual people in this state share their own narratives. Like with any social ill, it is important that we never forget the human faces and stories behind the facts and the figures.

This is why we publish works like downtTown USA: A Personal Journey with The Homeless and Maggots in my Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time. It is also why we were thrilled to see a lot of video material included in The Seattle Times series. Here are two clips, below. The first is about Cherie Moore and her 17-year-old son, Cody Barnes, who have been calling their Ford Ranger home.

Then there is Kim Ahern and her nine-year-old son Jack. After losing their home, they lived at Nickelsville, the only tent city in Washington’s King County that allows children to stay for more than the short term.

So, what are your thoughts on this disturbing trend? Do you know any families that have lost their homes? Do you have a story to share yourself, perhaps? We would love to hear what you are thinking, please leave a comment!

Source: “Shining a compassionate light on ‘Invisible Families’,” The Seattle Times, 09/12/10
Source: “The fastest-growing group among local homeless: families,” The Seattle Times, 08/28/10
Image by mcaretaker, used under its Creative Commons license.

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