Having the distinct dishonor of being the only industrialized nation in the world to have a homeless population wherein 40% now consists of families with children, the United States also ranks among the top when it comes to the amount of children left homeless, at last count 1.2 million of them.
While not quite as bad as our neighbor to the south, Mexico, where a full 3 million kids are either homeless or resort to begging and theft in order to maintain a home, we are quickly catching up to them as the extremists do a fast track on the decimation of programs designed to prevent this from happening. Knowing that a backlash is coming from concerned Americans over the policy disasters of the past three decades, the 'let the poor die' crowd is pushing for the destruction of more and more programs by the day it seems.
Using the tired old lines of yesterday, such as "It's not the government's job to help the poor". Or " The poor are just lazy." And " The poor should just get a job", the fanatics intentionally do not inform the rest of the country that their policies are shoving an ever growing amount of children onto America's streets.
You've seen them. You pass them on the street every day. With shelters filled to capacity, homeless families are living in cars, in doorways, in abandoned buildings, tents, rooftops, or in parks. Those lucky enough to be able to temporarily afford a motel as a home usually end up evicted for lack of rent. Most times, when that eviction from a motel occurs, the family loses all of their possesions to boot. Older kids live in packs, and forage for what they need in whatever way they can. We call them 'street kids', and by labeling them as such, we make believe that someone is helping them, or that they are doing just fine on their own. But are they really?
So called 'street kids' are at a much higher risk of developing chronic illnesses due to a lack of available medical care. Illnesses such as HIV, respiratory infections, and other infectious diseases. They are exposed to having to scavenge for food in garbage cans, or by begging for money. But most people don't even see these kids, and their outstretched hands are often met with a cold reception. In desperation, some will turn to crime, others will find their way to prostitution, and most will end up addicted to some form of drug in order to ease the mind numbing pain of being left behind by society.
Sure, there are many organizations that do great work in trying to help as many of these children of the night that they can. But the simple truth is that they do not have enough funding, and the money they were receiving has been cut and cut and cut, making it virtually impossible to attempt to reverse this ever growing blight on our nation.
The organizations that try to help give us the alarming figures on these children, but no one heeds them. Figures that tell us about the fact that even if a homeless child attends school, it is 50% more likely that kid will drop out. Or that street kids will have a much greater chance of developing a mental illness, but will have almost no chance of receiving treatment. Or the sickening fact that in this country that we claim is the light of hope and of freedom, children actually die from malnutrition.
We listen to the preachers of fiscal responsibility tell us that there is no money to be spared in order to save these 1,000,000 plus children, but the same speakers of lies will then award multi-billion dollar no bid contracts to corporations that build bigger and better guns. Food for children? Sorry, no can do. Homes for kids and families? Hahaha. Halliburton and KBR? Billions and billions of wasted dollars. Dollars that buy literally nothing at times. At what cost do we fight a never ending war OF terror? The fact is that in Osama Bin Laden's wildest dreams, he never could have thought to destroy the American Dream for America's children in the way that the fanatics that terrorize us daily have.
Imagine being a child on the streets. You find a temporary place to live, like an abandoned building. You join up with a group of other homeless street kids in order to feel a sense of belonging. You're surviving on almost nothing, and all of a sudden, the police kick you out of where you were living. Back to the nomadic wanderings, you find perhaps a subway platform to sleep. But with no protection from either the elements or the predators among us, you are either abducted and sold, murdered, or thrown in jail. What sort of individual does one suppose will enter adulthood, assuming they have survived? Do you think they'd be well adjusted, educated, and ready to take on the world? Or will an angry, mentally damaged person emerge to wreak more havoc, cause more crime, swell the ranks of the chronically homeless, and the never ending revolving door of the Prison Industry?
The United States ranks dead last of industrialized nations in the care and treatment of the poor and the homeless. But it wasn't always such. It has only been the last three decades that has seen the rise of sociopaths to positions of power. Men and women who could care less about their fellow citizens, but care only about the corporate bottom line. So what can we do to avert yet more children from entering the ranks of the 'street kids'?
First, we must, with all urgency, stop the bleeding of funds from domestic programs designed to help the poor. To those who cry about budget deficits, we must tell them they don't need bigger and better bombs. The ones they already bankrupted us with kill people very nicely.
Second, we must change the way we perceive the poor and the homeless. They are not all lazy, they are not all just looking for a free ride, and we must stop this 'me first' mentality that allows us to walk right past someone in need and never even see them. It is not too late. This country can once again be the shining beacon of compassion and hope that it used to be. All it will take is a conscious effort by all of us to throw off the chains that have been locked around us by the sociopaths these past three decades. Toss them and their twisted ideology to the wayside and start caring whether or not your neighbor has enough food, or a place to sleep.
Keep that figure in your head today as you go about your daily routine. One million plus discarded children. That's six zeros after a one, and if we don't do something to stop this slide into a third world country frame of mind, the next street kid could be yours.