Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday's Focus: America's Homeless Children: Who Are They?

I live in a small town, and I just recently found out that even though it is small, we have SEVEN homeless shelters here. I thought, Do we really have that many homeless people here, in our own little town? That can't be.

Well, it isn't for the homeless just here. These shelters care for the homeless from "wherever", and unfortunately, many are children from infants all the way to teens. The sad thing about the teens, however, is that many are not with their own families. They are runaways, from all kinds of abuse and trauma in their own homes. They are runaways from nothing more than strict parents whose rules they don't want to abide by. And they are runaways from homeless families, where they have left to try and find a better life for themselves, and have failed. Miserably.

Who are these children? They come from all walks of life, all races, religions, and economic lifestyles. There are far too many families who have lost everything since the recession of 2008: jobs lost or downsided; mortgages gone unpaid so the home is lost; no work in sight; no help or benefits from former employers or from the government. In other countries, homeless children are displayed in the media in very graphic and brutal ways, because this is how they are handled. Here in the US, homelessness is underated, it is inconspicuous because no one...NO ONE...wants to talk about it, much less see these homeless children graphically displayed on national TV.

What is this called? Passive resistence? Subtle acceptance of this phenomenon but let's not talk about it and maybe it will go away?

It is the unrelenting silence about homeless children that screams out to us that, yes, we MUST talk about it, it is vital that we talk about it. Even more vital is that we do something about it. DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

So let's talk about it, by thinking about the statistics that surround homeless children as opposed to those who are not homeless:
1. They are 4 times more likely to have severe respiratory problems.
2. They have 2 times as many ear infections
3. They have 5 times more gastrointestinal problems, due to hunger and near starvation.
4. They are 3 times more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems. I wonder why that is.
5. Of Homeless elementary school age children, only 21.5% of them are proficient in their age/class math; by high school, homeless kids have only 11.4% proficiency in math, and 14.6% in reading.
6. By age 12, 83% of homeless kids have witnessed, close up and personal, at least one serious violent crime, like murder, rape, physical assault, and suicide. Appoximately 80% of homeless/runaway kids, male and female, have been raped or sexually assaulted.

Are you shocked by now? I was, although not very surprised. And one other fact: did you know that US homeless children and teens are 17% more likely to die from gun violence than their peers in 25 other countries?

Homelessness results from a variety of factors, but poverty is the most prominent. The poverty level in the US for 2014 is $23,850 or less yearly for a family of four. In 2013, the US was ranked as having the 2nd highest child poverty rates in the world. That same year, 16.7 million children were living in food insecure households ( meaning they went hungry much of the time) or they were homeless.

We are "supposed" to be the wealthiest, most powerful, most well-developed country on this planet. Please explain to me why these statistics are here, and why, today, we still have 1.6 million homeless children?

Mahatma Gandhi said, "Poverty is the worst form of violence."

Until next time,
That's a wrap.

The list goes on, and we all know about it. But let's talk about these children who are homeless for no reasons of their own.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Monday's Musings on Sunday: Memorial Day, A Day for Memories

Tomorrow is Memorial Day. A day for memories, for prayers, for tributes to those who gave their lives so we could live.

Our flag flies at half-mast on Memorial Day. I grew up in a military family, and I married two military men...uh, not at the same time, however. Both fought in wars that this country involved itself in, one, WWII, not brought on by anything we did, the other, Korea, a war we probably should not have intruded upon. But both were out of the service by the time I married them.

My brother was twelve years older than I, and in his first year of college when he decided to enlist in the Air Force during WWII. I was just a little girl, but he was my hero and I was devastated when he left for the service. He signed up for four years, and came home only once during that time. That short leave was one of the happiest times of my life.

In April, 1945, he and his B-17 crew were awaiting rotation home when his best friend, also a pilot, received word from the Red Cross that he should come home immediately, as his wife had been severely injured in a car crash. My brother volunteered to take his friend's last flight, and when his crew heard about it, they all volunteered to fly with him. The mission was over Berlin. It was the last bombing raid before Germany's Hitler surrendered. That morning, fifty-two bombers went out. That afternoon, forty-seven came back. David's  plane, "Lil' Sis", was not one of the forty-seven.

Three days later, I was reading David's last letter to me when a car pulled up in front of our house. A major, a captain, and an Air Force Chaplain stepped out. I had grown up all over the world from one Army base to another, and I knew what that meant. My brother, my hero, was gone, and my life would never be the same.

Today, Richard will put up the flag, and tomorrow it will go to half-mast. For David, for my father, for my former husband, for all the friends we have lost over the years, some not military at all. It will fly at half-mast for my closest and dearest friend who died so very suddenly and unexpected just before Thanksgiving last year, and whose death once again changed my life. And that flag will fly at half-mast not just for us, but for all the men and women who have lost their lives fighting someone, something, that the United States has declared an "eminent danger" to the US...even when it possibly wasn't. It will fly in memory of, and as a tribute to, all those fallen heros.

Will your flag fly tomorrow? Will it be lowered to half-mast? If so, for whom will it fly?

Until next time, God Bless.
That's a wrap.