Fellow AWEARNESS writer David Alm shed a light recently on the plight of teenage runaways. Having to cope with economic uncertainty ripping their families apart, and even sex slavery (that's what I call underage prostitution, especially when it involves 10-year-olds), many of our nation's youth are facing tough times that can result in homelessness. Even my favorite "Golden Girl," Bea Arthur, chimed in on the topic from the heavens when her estate revealed last week that she left $300,000 to a gay youth shelter. Now that's being a friend to the end. . . and then some!
But if there is any silver lining whatsoever to the cloud of homelessness, it's that the media are beginning to show homelessness in a new, human, light. The Chicago Tribune just profiled a family who goes between living in a storage unit and various motels. Why is this news? Because it is straining our education systems:
Ron O'Connor, Will County's homeless liaison, said this academic year has been like no other. 'Where we used to see single moms, maybe leaving a domestic situation, now we're seeing more and more two-parent homes that just aren't making it,' O'Connor said. 'That's never happened before.'The Tribune profiled a working family. They aren't slackers, but people whose jobs were hit hard by the recession. This profile, and others like it, gives a face to the homelessness crisis and shows readers that not only lazy "bums" are struggling to find shelter. This is happening to families and individuals of all walks of life, and it could happen to just about anyone - even you.
This got me thinking. . . Will profiling families like this help the homelessness problem? Will we stop assuming that people live on the street because they are lazy and don't want to work? Can we begin to see them as human beings who caught a bad break or have other issues which require outside help? The face of a homeless person appears to be changing in the media, but many of the factors that contribute to the situation are the same. In fact, NOW on PBS updated their website on homelessness to reflect the new statistics on homelessness.
If one good thing comes from the current recession and the increase in homelessness, I do hope it is a change in our culture's notion of who is homeless and most importantly, why.