The following article was written for the Information Press & can also be seen online @ http://www.informationpress.net/Society/reverend-cynthia-rae-eastman.html
For a child, not having a safe place to live is traumatic no matter what the season. However, the feelings of isolation can be even more devastating during the holidays. Imagine being a child, watching other children, as they prepare their homes for family celebrations, while you are sleeping on someone else’s couch; in your parent’s car; at a shelter; on a church floor; or on the ground with or without a tent.
According to the 2009 San Luis Obispo County Enumeration of the Homeless (California - U.S.A.), there were 1,372 children, who were homeless, and 988 of them were students in our local schools. Thinking back on your own educational history and the stress involved, can you fathom that experience being compounded by wondering where your next meal would come from or being on sleep deprivation or not being able to shower or wear clean clothes to school – never mind trying to concentrate on actually doing homework?
If you are the parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or clergy of a local student, chances are they have friends or classmates, who are homeless. Many of these unhoused children are in that situation due to fleeing their homes because of domestic violence.
November 14-20th is “National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week.” Most American children will be celebrating Thanksgiving just days after that.
December 21st is “National Homeless Person’s Memorial Day” – the longest night of the year. Children, who are homeless, are at risk of freezing to death this winter and suicide is higher amongst homeless youth. While most of our children will be celebrating various holidays (Diwali, Eid al Adha, Hanukkah, Hijra, Bodhi Day, Solstice, Christmas, New Years, etc.), more than 1,000 of these local children will not be experiencing joyful festivities and may become severely depressed.
It is important to recognize, during this time of the year, that because the U.S. is described as a “salad bowl” filled with varied rich cultures, not all children, who are homeless, are Christians. Therefore, focusing on Christmas festivities may only serve to highlight their isolation, because their traditions are not being honored. Making a shift to multi-faith celebrations, which are respectful and inclusive of all religions, should certainly be considered.
A UNICEF estimate from 1989 stated that 100 million children were living on the streets. Many homeless youth in developing countries do not have clean drinking water, food, or medication. Consider helping these children through a contribution to UNICEF – http://www.unicef.org/
Ultimately, being homeless knows no season. As adults in a civilized society, it is our responsibility to solve this problem. No child should be unhoused – it is societal neglect, endangerment, and abuse to allow children to be homeless. The solution to ending homelessness for children is creating and providing affordable housing for their parents. Please contact local shelters, food banks, and clergy for information about what you can do to help. One person can make a difference and that person is you!