The often neglected and ignored homeless
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
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