Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Jaw Dropping News on Child Homelessness in Chicago

Yesterday’s Northwest Herald, the daily paper of McHenry County, tucked the shocking news away in a tiny short hard by the obituaries.

Chicago—Officials with Chicago Public Schools said the number of homeless students his increased compared with last year.
The Chicago Sun Times reported that there were more than 10,660 homeless students at the beginning of the school year.  That’s nearly 1,500 more than the previous school year…
 Nichole Amling is the Director of Public Policy at the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness.  She said many families are becoming homeless for the first time because they’ve lost housings.  Others are having a difficult time finding work.
That is not a typo—10,660 homeless student in Chicago alone.  And that doesn’t count probably hundreds more who have not yet reported and/or had their status discovered by the schools, or children under school age.  

Think about what that means in just one major American city and multiply it many times over for municipalities large and small around the country.  Children sleeping in shelters, their parent’s cars, surfing the couches and floors of family and friends if they are lucky—on the streets or in abandoned buildings if they fall through the gaping “cracks” of the system.  Children who arrive at school hungry, dirty, ragged, and frightened.  Children who easily become targets of cruel school yard taunts on one hand, and clueless teachers and staff on the other.

Are you mad yet?  

The CPS seems nonchalant about the problem—just another statistic.  The City, which under former Mayor Richard M. Daley made a commitment to “end homelessness in Chicago within the decade”, is now too busy belt-tightening and slashing services to the poor to even pretend to do anything about it.  

Far more important for Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his cronies is currying  the favor of the big banks and the international financial “community” by putting on a big show for this May’s meetings of NATO and the G8 Global Summit.  Those shows, the Mayor tells us, will require permanent draconian limitations to public protest in the city.

Of course those banks are at the root of much of the homelessness.  Foreclosures are picking up steam again in the city devastating many formerly middle class neighborhoods and creating those new classes of homeless children that Ms. Amling mentioned.  Most of those homes will sit vacant for years.  Many are deteriorating as pipes burst and vandals do their worst.  Many are slated for demolition and many more will be.  Those homes, that housing stock in the cold words of bureaucracy is not being replaced.

Are you seething in rage?

At the same time high demand has kept rents sky high, even in the shabbiest of neighborhoods, out of the reach of many families—even those with working parents.  The Chicago Housing Authority has never, despite promises, all of the thousands of units destroyed with the city’s former high rise housing projects.  Aldermen in middle class wards still fight fiercely any scattered site development and Aldermen from the poorest wards fight just as hard against becoming dumping grounds for moor poor people. 

The CHA has responded with a policy of evicting families if any member has a drug conviction—or even if a family member with a drug conviction visits for family gatherings.  Hundreds of families have been remorselessly put on the street under the thin cover of fighting drugs and crime—including, of course, many children who are no longer the CHA’s problem.

Meanwhile the lack of housing and its high costs are pushing many families to the suburbs where they find a cold welcome.  And, of course, family homelessness is on the rise in both the Cook County suburbs and in former havens from the dirty, scary poor in the Collar Counties, including McHenry.

Are you boiling with indignation?

This country is seriously broken.  We need to help those thousands of children—and their families and all of those tottering on the brink of disaster every day.

No more business as usual for banks or government until we do!

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