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Posts Tagged ‘homeless children’

hHighlight_photo1That’s the phrase used quite a bit these days when we talk about impacting something on a societal level, “moving the needle”. I get asked a lot in my work about what I think an individual can really do in terms of that process. Like, how can I get involved where I can be relatively sure that what I’m doing is going to have a long-term impact? Here’s what I tell them:

Read to a child. It doesn’t take a lot of time. It’s so simple. And it’s highly entertaining. And you absolutely will be helping achieve something better and brighter for tomorrow.

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A lot of items have crossed my screen recently that piqued my interest. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Is ‘a doll always a doll’, really? Would you pay $95 for a ‘homeless’ doll? We asked your opinion on our VibeGlobe page. I had to take a few days to process this one, but I’ve settled in on an opinion similar to the one expressed by Shannon Moriarty on Change.org’s blog. I could hop on my soapbox and excoriate Mattel, like others have. But I think this is less about a company doing what companies are supposed to do (make $), and more about how we (me, you, and the person sitting next to you) are afraid to accept the possibility that a child’s toy might be a little too real for us adults…
  • If you’re a reader of the Unite to End Homeless blog, you’ll be familiar with my muted disdain for the editorial board of the Seattle Times. I don’t always disagree with them, and I’m not the only one who does whenever I do. But when I read this recent editorial about Councilmember Tim Burgess’ proposed panhandling ordinance, I couldn’t remember what city I lived in. So I pose this question to you all: have you ever felt intimidated enough by someone asking for change that you felt compelled to give it to them, short of them having a weapon of some kind (that ain’t panhandling, that’s robbery). If you have, tell me. I want to know! I want to write your story! Because in all my time here, in the thousands of times I’ve been asked for money by someone who obviously needed it more than me, I have NEVER had anyone say anything to me other than ‘thank you’, ‘God Bless you’, or ‘have a nice day’, regardless of whether or not I gave them anything more than a smile. So let me hear it! I want to know! To paraphrase the last sentence of the editorial: ‘The city has a duty to regulate–within the law, within reason–the manner in which it treats its most vulnerable citizens as they go about their daily lives.’
  • And speaking of Mr. Burgess (and the Times editorial page, for that matter), it appears he had some overnight guests earlier this week. In this particular instance, I actually find myself agreeing with the editorial writers for the most part. Money is definitely tight, in everyone’s budget, and pulling something like this isn’t going to make someone like Mayor Nickels or the City Council open up their empty pocketbooks. As the writers stated, it would be far more productive for us to focus on getting the housing levy passed in November and other long-term issues like working with a new city administration.
  • And finally, since I’ve made it clear how I feel on Proposition 1, a few words about a few other items coming up this fall: Initiative 1033 and Referendum 71. While supporters of I-1033 would like you to believe that capping tax revenue makes government more accountable, all it really does is make it harder for government to fill its role as sole provider for such frivolous things as education, law enforcement, and public transportation, not to mention indispensable social services such as public health clinics and senior centers that, while also supported by nonprofits and religious organizations, would suffer immensely without government support. Now, I know this might not be a popular stance to take, that many of us truly believe taxes are evil and government is wasteful, slothful, etc and we want our money back! I just read the website, and it sounds wonderful. But the fact is that this Initiative would make it more difficult for government services to be enacted during the very time that they are needed the most. We’ll make it harder to hire more teachers, place more unemployed or underemployed people into job training and skill development programs at community colleges, or have an adequate response method in the event of a public emergency (last time I checked, we had a few active volcanoes in the region). ALL of that, and more, is paid for with tax revenue.
  • As for Ref 71, you may not see a link between a domestic partnership law and homelessness. But consider this: nearly 40% of homeless people under 18 years of age identify themselves as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (LGBT). And if you don’t think being homeless had anything to do with their sexual orientation for these kids, just stop reading this because it’s not worth my time. They’re kicked out, they run away, they end up on the street. They’re called queer, fag, freak…and they are smacked in the face by laws in their own country that prevent them from growing up, falling in love, and marrying the person that they want to spend the rest of their life with.

    You may not think Ref 71 is about equal rights for gays and lesbians, and that’s fine. But passing this referendum will, at the very least, provide the residents of Washington with an opportunity to look into the faces of some of these young people and say: You are not worthless. You are not weird. You and your loved ones will be treated like everyone else.

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    Here’s a quick update on a few folks I’ve written about previously. I’ve tried my best to follow the stories of Mark Horvath and David Ashby. They’re both doing amazing, inspiring things to raise awareness around homelessness…but it’s really the stories that they’re hearing that I find inspiringly heart-breaking.

  • Mark, the creator of invisiblepeople.tv, is in the middle of his road trip around America to chronicle the lives of homeless people in this, the wealthiest broke nation in the history of the world. He’s visited shelters and tent cities from LA to Florida, and his work has quickly become a “social media phenomenon”, as pointed out in this recent article for the Social Media Club of Seattle. He’ll be back in Seattle for the Gnomedex 9.0 conference on August 20th to talk about using social media to create change. Definitely check it out, if you have a chance!
  • As for 14-year old David, he is closing in on his destination of Washington DC, having walked over 740 miles so far on his journey. He recounts some of the stories of the homeless youth he’s met on his trek on his blog. David should arrive in DC sometime next week, where I hope President Obama takes the time to meet with this young man. It’s not clear whether or not that will happen, and David’s pretty clear about that not being the point of this experience. But if you want to see it happen, you can sign a petition on Change.org’s website before August 15th.

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  • Tonight, in this country, more than 1.5 million people under the age of 17 will try to cope with the fact that they don’t have a safe place to sleep. Do not glaze past that number: 1,500,000 plus (‘plus’ because this is a pre-recession number). Some are runaways. Some are with their families living in shelters or on the streets. Others got kicked out of the house for being gay. Homelessness and poverty have devastating effects on every facet of a child’s life. Anyone looking to debate that particular statement needs to just turn and walk away, because it’s really not worth the time for either of us. Long after ‘the economy’ recovers, this will still be a crisis. And while many of us are waiting for that ‘recovery’, the crisis is only getting worse.

    David Ashby is trying to do something about that. David is 14, and attends Lee Middle School in Orlando. He has two brothers and a sister, lives with his mom, and enjoys video games. That’s about it for ‘typical’. His bio is pretty amazing, as 14-year-olds go. Last year, as part of a school project, he learned that 70 of his schoolmates were, in fact, homeless. Rather than chalk that factoid up as an interesting tidbit in his academic pursuits, David decided to learn more about child and youth homelessness, and more importantly, to do something about it. Now, he could have volunteered at a shelter, or raised money at his school and donated it, or any number of things. But David wanted to really raise awareness around this issue, beyond filling an immediate need in his immediate surroundings. So, he spent several months planning an 1,100 journey from Orlando to DC…a journey that he intends to *walk*. And as if that wasn’t ‘different’ enough, he decided to stay in shelters along the way, meet with children staying in those shelters, and share their stories via social media. He formed a website, started a blog, and (probably grudgingly) agreed to let his mom follow him in a van.

    There are, of course, people who think it’s a stunt, that he’s all about self-promotion, and he’s just doing it for media coverage, etc. Okay, sure, haters, I don’t think doing something like this is going to hurt his chances of being successful later in life. But the difference here is that he’s doing ‘something’ for someone else that may help him down the road. [And if you’re trying to raise awareness about something and highlight it for everyone to see…isn’t ‘promoting’ it or seeking all sorts of media coverage kinda the point?] He wants the story to be about those 1.5 million young people and children, their experiences, their stories. Let’s hope the media cooperates.

    In the meantime, keep up with him. The trip started earlier in June, and he’s had to stop in order to deal with a family medical emergency. But he’s hoping to get back on the road shortly!

    Patrick

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    Here are a few things of note that have crossed my eye in my massive number of Google alerts stacked up during my trip to the South:

  • I wrote previously about a new law in Maryland labeling violence against homeless people as a hate crime. Apparently now the District of Columbia is trying to follow suit. The article quotes the director of the National Coalition for the Homeless as hoping this type of legislation can serve “as a model for the rest of the country.” I’d be more inclined to hope that, if these human beings are being attacked based on their housing status, we’d be doing a little bit more to address THAT issue instead. [Insert shoulder shrug here]
  • Are you familiar with the online game “The Sims“? Well, even if you’re not, you’ll be interested/fascinated/disgusted to know that someone has created (finally?) a homeless ‘sim’. Actually, two of them, a father and daughter. The “tale of Alice and Kev” has created quite a stir, with folks online describing the story as ‘creative’, ‘genius’, ‘insulting’, ‘compelling’, and ‘putrid’. Check it out, and let me know what you think!
  • “Nobody knows I am [homeless] unless I tell them,” said my friend. “Just because you’re from a certain place doesn’t make you who you are. I’m not where I’m from, but where I’m from made me who I am.” Do yourself a favor on this day, and read about Valencia McMurray. You’ll be glad you did. Do yourself another favor, and watch her reading her poem “Secrets“. Then remember that there are over 1,000 youth like Valencia in our own community on any given night. Act.
  • Patrick

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    I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a President say the word “homeless” out loud in front of a camera when he wasn’t running for something. Granted, the question did prompt him, but still…here’s a thoughtful blog string from Change.org about President Obama’s response from his press conference.

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    time-magazine

    This week’s Time Magazine has an interesting article about kids experiencing homelessness and how it affects their schooling. The article focuses on Minneapolis, where nearly 1 in 10 children attending public school are homeless. The article also states that preliminary figures show a shocking 16% increase in homeless students throughout the US.

    Bringing it closer to home, the Puget Sound Education Service District estimates that there are 15,000 homeless students in King and Pierce Counties.

    While the numbers are grave, the positive note is that there is legislation like the McKinney Act which requires school districts to help homeless children stay in one school continuously. Also the federal stimulus package has allocated $70 million going towards homeless students.

    Overall, it’s good to see that there are systems in place to help kids going through catastrophic times maintain some semblance of normal life.

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