Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hope for the children

Every family becomes homeless for reasons that are uniquely their own. Some become homeless because of a change in situation or circumstance. Others are born into families that have been in poverty for generations.

Ruby Payne, PhD, writes in Bridges out of Poverty “It is the hope… that 100 years from now poverty will no longer be economically viable. Two hundred years ago slavery was thought to be an economic necessity. It was not. One hundred fifty years ago it was believed that women were not capable of voting. That also was not true. We fervently hope that by 2100 individuals and society at large will no longer believe that poverty is inevitable.”

Because our Children’s Program Director always has great insight into the lives of our children, I asked him if he could share something that would help paint the picture of a child who came to us homeless because of generational poverty. He shared the following.

“Research paints an extremely bleak picture for children born into generational poverty and their chances of upward mobility. These children are statistically dealt a hand that suggests they will never leave poverty.”

“The negative impacts of generational poverty on children are extensive and long lasting. Statistically these children are more likely to have poor diets, be subject to violent situations, change where they live many times, and struggle academically.”

“These statistics hold true for many of the children we serve at Community LINC. Many of our families come from neighborhoods that are food-barren areas. Due to lack of transportation and scarcity of grocery stores, children often eat food that is within walking distance. When I ask students what their favorite foods are an overwhelming number of them say chips, soda, and candy. All of which can be purchased within walking distance across the street at a gas station.” 

“Furthermore, many of our children have been subject to violent situations. Recently I was teaching a class to a group of 4th and 5th graders. I asked who in the room had ever been in a fight, everyone raised their hand.”

“I then asked who knows someone who has been shot; all but one raised their hand.”

“The last question I asked was how many of them had seen a physical fight at home between family members, everyone kept their hand up. Often times our children believe violence is a way to handle problems because that is what they have been exposed to.”

“Many of our children are very transient, meaning they have changed where they live many times. I recently spoke with a client about how many schools her children have attended in the past. She told me that for the last 7 years they have changed where they live between staying with friends and family, shelters, motels, and cars. She said that they usually move 2-3 times a year. This amount of housing instability causes children to have higher stress rates, more emotional and psychological disorders, and more physical health problems.”

“This rate of mobility is also one of the contributing factors to why our children often struggle in school. Another harsh reality is that the schools that our students attend are failing to meet their needs because they lack the necessary resources. Our students often express concerns about their safety and educational needs not being met by their schools. Also, many of our students face additional responsibilities at home that hinder their education.  Due to lack of family resources many students are required to contribute financially. Right now we have a 16 year old girl who works full time at a restaurant on top of being a junior in high school.”         
“Despite the difficult situation our children go through I would describe them as amazing kids. Their ability to express concerns about their future and their needs being met shows a desire to make the right choices, and a hunger to learn.”

We share Ruby Payne’s hope for these amazing kids.