The Held Harmless Phenomenon: The Often Neglected and Ignored Homeless

The often neglected and ignored homeless


Homeless, Thomas Kennington, 1890

It is noted that the growth and development of a child from 0-12 is essential in their ability to use reason and logic in understanding how their environment impacts them and the part they play in life. Being deprived of proper nutrition, safety and guidance delays this process and results in causing upheaval for their entire lives. The homeless child does not always have the opportunity to socialize with his/her peers and instead spends most of their time alone with their parent. It is not unusual for their parent to be under great stress, fear, struggling to survive which also impacts the child.

Many of these children end up in foster care where they are medicated due to their inability to focus and assimilate into their new environment. The children that have been homeless for some time will have a completely different skill set than those that have been sheltered and well cared for making it difficult for them to connect. We see these children as a burden and do not have much hope for their survival in society. We aren’t at all alarmed that our attitudes, labels and assumptions are a huge part of the problem.

In a country as wealthy and supposedly intelligent as the US when did we lose sight upon just how we build a society that benefits each and every one of us? Our education system has suffered, leaving children behind and under educated. Higher education has become a burden for anyone seeking to further their education and diplomas have become worthless pieces of paper that do not guarantee stable employment. Our youth become disenchanted, depressed and angry that they are unable to survive the profit focused environment. Any child that has not had the benefit of continued classroom instruction will not be expected to compete with those that have been guided early in life. This is another disadvantage for our young that are without shelter.

The parents of the homeless child may have missed out on opportunities to learn a skill for employment. If they do have skills they might not have access to services that will assist them in gaining employment. This may be due simply from not having the required clothing, transportation, childcare and a permanent address. The homeless child may not be accepted into a school program for the same reasons.

There is absolutely no reason that schooling has become prohibitive to those that need it the most. Where are the trade schools that are free for anyone that wishes to enhance their knowledge? Where are the services that lift people out of poverty?

When we disenfranchise the homeless and the poor we are basically saying this group has no significance yet use them as targets for blame for all the ills that come with our communities and budget spending. The fact remains that when we find ways to bring people out of being trapped by poverty we become more powerful and successful.

In tracking and researching this dire situation I have found that many states and counties across the US spend copious amounts of time discussing this issue, mulling, pondering, sighing and fussing rather than putting forth a sound plan and implementing it immediately. If someone finds a solution they must be very vigilant in seeking out those that can assist them in putting their plan in action. They often find they are rebuffed and rejected simply due to not being one of the cliques that are addressing the issue not because their plan isn’t sound. This makes me a bit suspicious of the intent and meanwhile children are left without homes and proper nutrition while they pretend to be concerned.

When we become a society where wealth and prosperity becomes more important and is held higher than human life I would say we are in dire straits.

References for further reading

2.5 million children in America – one in every 30 children – go to sleep without a home of their own each year.

US Census Bureau statistics for Hawai’i

Statistics of Homeless Children in Hawai’i


Dr. Cliff Kopp begins his journey on Thursday, walking all the way around the Big Island to raise awareness of the homeless housing issue. Laura Shimabuku/West Hawaii Today “

Homelessness is a bigger problem on Hawaii Island than most people realize, Kopp said. Instead of collecting alongside streets and in downtown areas, many homeless residents live out of sight of most people, in the bushes, in the woods, at remote shorelines and beaches.

Here is a testimony given by Dr Clifford Kopp. Dr Kopp walked the entire island, some 240 miles to raise awareness for our homeless population. He’s now beginning his second walk around the island hoping to gain more attention to the urgency of assisting those in need:

Testimony on Bill 136

Clifford Kopp, DDS

January 22, 2016

Thank you for allowing me to testify today on this important issue. Bill 136 is a step forward, but unfortunately only a minimal step. If adopted and implemented, some 32 beds will be established for homeless individuals. However, this County has an estimated 1,300 people that are homeless, 400 of them children. I understand that County officials have been working to find solutions for this problem for more than two years, through the CHIRP effort. Given this length of time and the number of unsheltered people, 32 beds is inadequate, as it addresses less than 3% of the issue, and 0% of the mothers and the children, who for no fault of their own, are living an unsheltered existence in Hawaii County.

Why are we afraid to think bigger? Why, when we’ve known about this problem for so long, do we prepare legislation for only 32 beds? How long are we going to have to wait to see meaningful, long-term, coordinated shelters, which offer protection, hygiene and government and social services support?

Hawaii County has by far, the smallest number of shelter beds based on population, anywhere in the State of Hawaii. Based on population, we have 1/3 as many shelter beds as does either Honolulu County or Maui County.

82% of the homeless on Hawaii Island live unsheltered, which is more than double that of Oahu. It is shocking that in Hawaii County, 73% of families with children live unsheltered. That is nearly three times worse than the situation on Maui where only 26% of families with children live unsheltered and six times worse than on Oahu where only 12% of families with children live unsheltered. Simply stated, there are no available beds, now or into the foreseeable future.

How does Hawaii County compare nationally? Nationwide, only 3% of homeless school-age children live unsheltered. In my research, I have to date not found any County in the United States that has a higher percentage of unsheltered children than Hawaii County.

In February 2008, a U.S. District Court Chief Judge ordered the Hawaii Department of Education to abide by the McKinney Vento Act of 1986, and provide equal access to education for homeless children. Judge Gillmor ruled that the DOE must do more to identify homeless children. Has this ruling had any impact here in Hawaii County?

Eight years later, and we stand by and abide children, the so-called “hidden homeless”, who are not attending schools, and as a County and a State, we continue to place all of the responsibility on in many cases, traumatized mothers.

We need to think, plan and create hundreds of shelter beds as a long-term solution. 32 beds in five years, it is not enough, and says nothing to the greatness of the people of Hawaii.

References for further reading

Homeless Children and Youth

State of Hawaii – Homeless Point in Time Count 2015

Federal Judge Rules that the state of Hawaii Department of Education Must Fulfill Its Obligation to Homeless Children – ACLU

The McKinney-Vento Act At a Glance

Categories: Economic rights, Hawai'i, Human rights, Indigenous peoples, Opinion/Editorial, Pacific Ocean, Political commentary, Politics, Social commentary, Social policy, US News, World news

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20 replies

  1. Outstanding post, Jewel. You put a lot of yourself into this and it shows.

    This is precisely the sort of news that sets World News Forum apart. This is the kind of significant and informative news that you will rarely find anywhere else. This is the good stuff that gets overlooked everywhere else.

    We can’t thank you enough for this contribution. Good job. And, thank you.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Jewel,
      I failed to put a reply for this great piece because I’ve had some glitch in my reply button , thanks to Paul for fixing it
      You in simple words and fluency put a good analysis to a problem I was thinking about since long time and it is why big dangerous social and educational problems don’t get solved and stay where they are in most of world countries?
      You figured the reason very well in the last paragraph starting with ” In tracking and researching this dire situation I have found that ……

      Liked by 3 people

      • Thank you, fada1! Here on the island the “talks” are still ongoing without result or action. My friend, Dr Cliff Kopp has made a second walk around the island where he was greeted and walked with many that are encouraging his cause. He’s planning a third walk. In the meantime no progress has occurred for the homeless. The funds are available, plans have been presented and the result is continued discussion. I often feel that there is not enough interest in assisting those in need and more interest in hoping the problem will disappear. Our society simply doesn’t understand that bring those up from the ashes creates a more balanced community for us all.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you! I do find that the attitude toward the homeless is an abomination and a crime against humanity. I know that many that are homeless are willing to step up and assist in their recovery. I don’t quite understand how those in charge haven’t figured out that they have valuable resources in the homeless, experience and knowledge that is useful. Why not engage the homeless in assisting in building shelters and sites that will service their needs?

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Wonderful post Jewel. I am so happy that you put this all together. I don’t know anyone that could of done a better job. It is a growing problem which cities are hiding. After the national meltdown, Tampa Florida forced our homeless “tent city” to move outside city limits. There were entire families living there but the city wanted to hide it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m continually amazed how some areas roust out the homeless due to celebrity or some event coming to the area. As if hiding the fact that there are people in dire need while copious amounts of funds are provided for an “event” doesn’t seem to bother anyone. The homeless have always been with us and until we stop pointing fingers and blaming we’ll not solve anything. When did humane become mundane?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Fortunately, wiser and more compassionate leaders have begun to realize that society has a vested economic interest as well as a compelling moral obligation to serve our most unfortunate, homeless citizens.

        In places like California, Washington and Utah, state and local governments have begun to recognize that society benefits from caring for the homeless and that it has a moral obligation to do so. We are continuing to evolve as a society.

        Progressive communities are creating pioneering social programs that are effectively addressing homelessness, even while more conservative states and cities double down on blaming the poor for their own misfortune. And Pontius Pilate washed his hands…

        Liked by 2 people

        • If one crisis brings awareness to another crisis then whatever progress comes of this is beneficial. The refugee crisis brought many to think of the homeless issue here at home on our soil. Hopefully we’ll hear more successful stories from cities that have stepped up and solved much of the problems they’ve ignored for so long.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Agreed. Homelessness doesn’t occur in a vacuum, nor does the way that we respond to it as a society. Our attitudes, our religious beliefs, our political and economic systems, all impinge upon how we perceive and respond to poverty in our own communities.

            By the way, congratulations! Since it was published two days ago, this post has had 187 views.

            Liked by 2 people

            • Unfortunately too many people ignore or deny the existence of the homeless other than berate them for their situation as it is too painful for them to accept. If they found themselves in the same position I do believe they’d want a way to justify their fall yet if they simply ignore the problem it makes life easier for them. This has a lot to do with our attitudes, religious beliefs, political and economic systems as you mentioned.
              It makes me smile that I’ve had some traffic on this issue that is so important to me. Thanks for the update!

              Liked by 2 people

      • How did you guess? lol. Tampa had the GOP convention that year. That is when our Gov enforced the move.

        Liked by 2 people

        • The homeless were swept from the streets of Oahu due to tourists not wanting to view them. I’ve read of other places doing the same. There are towns and cities that take the homeless person’s possessions and identification from them. Cities where it is illegal to feed the homeless. What does this say about our great country?

          Liked by 1 person

        • HA, when the 2008 GOP convention was held in St. Paul MN, they wanted to shut down the Dorothy Day Center across the street from the convention center. Catholic Charities did get money to provide overnight accommodation for the street people who over flowed their facility for overnight beds during the convention. The Free meals were still provided at the main site.
          It looked like a armed camp around our Civic center. The protesters were walled off to surpcae parking next to the DDCenter. It was ugly…..

          Liked by 3 people

          • My daughter would get into my space and jokingly say, “Would you move, I’m trying to be here”. This reminds me of those that decide that the homeless need to move on as something “important” is going on. It rankles me that cities would rather sweep camps and scatter those without than provide for them. From comments I’ve read on other sites most would like to believe that the homeless are drug addled losers that deserve their fate. Most of us know this is not the case at all and these people struggle to survive while many people simply do not care. Assuming they deserve to be diminished takes the guilt away I suppose yet it certainly doesn’t reflect well on the soulless.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Working families make up a segment of homeless families. They sleep in family shelters, live on friends couches, eat at the Loaves and Fishes free dinners. Their children do go to school to public schools in our city. They do try to keep the child in the same school if at all possible.
    Teachers are aware of the homeless children and do what they can to make their classroom a safe haven for the day. A friend of mine teaches 1st grade. A little boy hung on her leg for about six months, always wanting sit on her lap. He was a bright boy but she said he was so in need of feeling safe. By midway through 1st grade he began to sit with the other children for story time.
    She saw that as a success. It had nothing to do with learning to read or learning to count. It was about being safe and secure during the day.

    Liked by 3 people

    • So nice to see you again, lakeviewpilgrim.

      I was thinking about all of this just this morning. In particular, I was musing about how conservatives once mocked the idea of “midnight basketball,” a proposal made by congressional Democrats during the Clinton presidency to fund a social program for low income kids in order to provide them with safe havens as an alternative to hanging out on the streets, being recruited by gangs, doing drugs, etc.

      Republicans ridiculed the idea as yet another example of liberalism gone to seed. “Midnight basketball? These kids should be at home and off the streets at midnight!” That was the depth of their shallow understanding.

      It was easy enough for over-privileged white conservatives to fail to comprehend that not every kid has a cushy warm and pleasant home environment. The streets are often the only refuge that disadvantaged youths have from unpleasant home realities: parents who are abusive or drug addicts, inadequate food, frequent scenes of domestic violence, etc. So, as usual, the puddle-deep social philosophers on the political right never stopped to ask themselves whether or not a “midnight basketball” program might make a difference both for at risk youths and society too.

      One of the greatest ironies of this particular debate was that the Germans implemented just such a social program and it was a stunning success, dramatically reducing adolescent and gang-associated crime rates. In fact, one of the kids who credited his salvation to this program went on to become a popular political figure in Germany. He was the first ethnic Arab to run for a major political office in Germany–for mayor of Berlin.

      Talk of the “sanctity of life” and “family values” sounds nice and makes for great campaign ads. But when it comes to where the rubber hits the road, conservatives are no where in sight. Republicans do not walk the walk.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. There is only one candidate that repeatedly addresses this situation. I truly believe that many people don’t understand that when we bring those in need out of their situations our country becomes stronger. There is plenty of talk about what a problem the homeless have become and little action.
    I worked with homeless children in the school setting. The parents truly do not wish for their situation to be broadcast and did the best they could to provide for their young ones. Some schools reject the homeless due to not having a permanent address or for whatever reason they can get away with as these children are often high maintenance. However I found a bit of tender love and care, attention to their needs is akin to showering them with treasures. There simply are not enough services to address each case and this is something that must change.
    I often wonder why we aren’t creating more community centers that offer classes and activities to all without fees. Those that need an outlet are usually the ones that cannot afford to use the facilities. When I was young the local newspaper had a program in one of their buildings that offered dance and other lessons for free. Our family drove from the farm to take advantage of these offerings. There was a variety of classes in music, dance and drama. Those were the ones I was interested in and I know there were also sports classes.
    One thing that bothers me the most is there are highly skilled retirees and others that would gladly give a couple hours a week to teach at a center if there was one available. I would be one of these retirees. We do not use our community resources nearly enough and so we are separated instead of brought together.
    Our politicians don’t seem to care one wit about the struggling in the country and continually have other interests. Meanwhile the situation becomes more severe and then these same people cut services, make feeding the homeless illegal and complain that the homeless are a problem. Their solution is to drug test them at their expense before offering them food stamps or welfare. Is that about as callus as it gets?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Great suggestions. In this election year, I think it is as important as to who are our local elected officals running for city, county offices as the presidential candidates.
      It is at the local level folks have greatest leverage to talk to the candidates, elected officals, organize for a particular policy or increase funding like more community centers ,parks and recreation offeirngs for children and families.
      I live in a big city with a network of well funded rec centers,libraries , public parks. All offer free or small fees to take classes, play a sport, learn to swin, have a fun time for kids and their parents. Btu I never take it for granted and keep informed about the next wave of funding or not for these great services. I write my elected officials, show up for community meetings etc.

      I do not know how it works in rural areas with different obstacles and far flung towns.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I do believe it is the same all over big or small. Many personalities get into politics for recognition and sometimes lose sight of their responsibilities to all people. I don’t think this is unusual at all and whatever they can get away with they seem content with this approach. While some are thoroughly dedicated in meeting the needs of all those that are not make it difficult for their progress.
        I’ve not been one to join organizations or groups due to often finding progress is slow and talk is abundant. I am and have always been politically active yet choose carefully how I approach any given issue. I am not easily impressed which has been highly beneficial for me.This has also cause some criticism toward my views yet I do not suffer fools easily. The more we stand together for progress for all people the better we grow and develop as one. Those that feel they’d rather have the glitz and celebrity than deal with issues that deeply effect our everyday quality of life are not the ones we want leading us. We simply need to choose our leaders carefully and always do our homework.

        Liked by 2 people

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