Our Nation Fails to Protect the Most Vulnerable Among Us
The numbers are staggering. According to a report by the National Center on Family Homelessness (NCFH) (http://www.familyhomelessness.org/children.php?p=ts) families now make up more than 44 percent of the homeless population, 40% of which (1.5 million) are homeless children. The statistics are alarming and growing each day. According to the numbers calculated by NCFH, 39% percent of the homeless population consists of children less than 18 years of age; 40% of homeless children are less than five years old; and 85% percent of homeless families are headed by single mothers. It is estimated by the NCFH that these children are homeless at least ten to eleven months at a time – and their homelessness continues through adulthood.
- Hunger: Children without homes are twice as likely to experience hunger as other children. Two-thirds worry they won’t have enough to eat. More than one-third of homeless children report being forced to skip meals.
- Health: Homelessness makes children sick. Children who experience homelessness are more than twice as likely as middle class children to have moderate to severe acute and chronic health problems.
- Education: Homeless children are twice as likely as other children to repeat a grade in school, to be expelled or suspended, or to drop out of high school. At the end of high school, few homeless students are proficient in reading and math – and their estimated graduation rate is below 25%.
In addition, the report claims that homeless children “endure a lack of safety, comfort, privacy, reassuring routines, adequate health care, uninterrupted schooling, sustaining relationships, and a sense of community. These factors combine to create a life-altering experience that inflicts profound and lasting scars.”
NCFH and Horizons for the Homeless, along with nearly 30 national organizations from across the country, recently sent letters to leaders of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees. The letters advocate for adequate funding for the early education, child care, health, education, nutrition, and domestic violence prevention programs that ensure homeless children and families have access to the critical supports and services they need. These organizations are urging members of Congress to protect programs that support homeless children and families.
A few weeks ago I blogged about the problem our nation faces with millions of veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and homelessness. For years it has been a problem for Vietnam era vets. It is a national disgrace. We can now add to it homeless children. We are a nation that criticizes other nations for their lack of humanitarian efforts. We had better stare straight into the mirror and examine our own treatment of the most vulnerable among us before criticizing others. I am reminded by two quotes that sum it up perfectly. The first was the last speech of Hubert H. Humphrey:
"...the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
I leave you with your own thoughts and a quote by Mahatma Ghandi: "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members."
Blog by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, March 21, 2011