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Staggering 38% Increase in Child Homelessness in the United States (VIDEO)

Staggering 38% Increase in Child Homelessness in the United States (VIDEO)

For many families in the United States, this will be the first Christmas they are not spending at home. No, they are not off at a beach resort or on a skiing vacation. An ever-rising number of American children will be spending Christmas on the streets, in a shelter, in their car, or in a cheap motel that they may no longer be able to afford tomorrow. In fact, child homelessness in the United States has increased 38 percent since 2007 and last year there were 1.6 million homeless children in the country.

The number of people who could slip from living paycheck to paycheck in a somewhat comfortable home today to living on the street tomorrow is staggeringly high. According to the U.S. Census Bureau around 48 percent of Americans are currently living in poverty or on low incomes. Alfredo Brown, deputy director of the non-profit Champman Partnership, told the New York Times:

I see it every day. I see so many children and mothers that are homeless and sleeping in their car or an abandoned building, an old bus. It’s a sad situation that we live in a country that has so much and many people have so little.

San Francisco Chronicle writer Jill Tucker tells the story of one such family. Tung Nguyen and Sophorn “Julie” Sung and their two boys, 3-year old Danny and 10-year old Rudy, are homeless. Tucker writes:

Rudy Nguyen, 10, still doesn’t have a real home.

But after spending two months sleeping with his parents and 3-year-old brother in a San Francisco bus station, or on a park bench, or on the linoleum floor of a crowded drop-in shelter, Rudy and his family are currently warm and fed.

They are staying, for now, in a spare bedroom that an Oakland family of four offered up after reading about the homeless fourth-grader in a Chronicle story three weeks ago.

It can happen so quickly and unexpectedly to regular middle-class families that seemed to be doing quite well. The New York Times tells the story of one such family:

Highlighting the shrinking middle class in America, a reporter found Tracy and Elizabeth Burger and their 8-year-old son, Dylan. The Burgers said they once earned nearly $100,000 a year combined but saw their middle-class lifestyle evaporate when Tracy lost his job in audiovisual system sales.

Unable to pay rent, they were evicted from their apartment in early 2009 and had to move into a motel. In March they moved into a cramped converted garage at Elizabeth’s mother’s house in Los Angeles.

Elizabeth, a former medical assistant, said she has less than six weeks left on her unemployment insurance and was anxiously watching this week’s standoff in Congress over extending those payments, along with the payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans.

On her blog, Tales from the Driver’s Side, Carey Fuller tells the stories of homeless people and writes in poetry and prose about her own life as a homeless single mother. In a post last month called “Is your criticism based on reality?”, Fuller wrote about the criticisms she faces from people who seem to think the worst about her and other homeless people. She writes:

Many homeless folks face criticisms from people who think their perspectives apply to the reality homeless people actually live in. I find this to be true everytime I get an email or comment from someone who accuses me of being selfish for not going to a shelter system I can’t even get into and believe me, I have tried. See the video attached to this blog for a small example of what I’ve been dealing with for several years now. I’ve heard everything from suggestions to dump my kids off to Foster care to turning custody over to other family members. Interestingly enough, these comments tend to come from people who THINK they know my situation and others like mine. First of all, if relatives WANTED to take custody of my kids when they knew I was going to be homeless, I imagine they would’ve have done so by now. Secondly, many of my relatives can barely afford a roof over their heads so taking on more mouths to feed is out of the question.

I find criticisms to be interesting insights into other people’s ignorance about homeless parenting.

In her video, Fuller chronicles what happens when a homeless mother tries to find help for her family.

According to the New York Times, families like Nguyen’s, Burger’s and Fuller’s, used to account for around one percent of homelessness in the United States and they now account for around one-third. The recession, the shrinking middle class, and the increasing income and wealth disparities in the country mean that more and more families are struggling, whether permanently or temporarily. It is the new, and very unacceptable, reality.

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Photo credit: Don Hankins on flickr

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105 comments

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6:43AM PDT on Sep 15, 2012

This is yet another symptom of the breakdown of family values and the poor economic climate. Something must be done to change the US's set of priorities and their failing economy. Fast!

10:50PM PST on Jan 30, 2012

There is a homeless medical facility about 6 blocks down the road. Also dental and advice. Trust me people ..they look like you and I ..last time I saw people with small children. Broke my heart .I used to volunteer at a food bank but the funding shrunk and it was ended. But...hey ! Global corps are giving the most billion dollar bonuses ! And our politicians pander to them .

10:41PM PST on Jan 30, 2012

But...hey..the 1% is making more than ever...and our politicians seem to support them .
I always had thought that our politicians work for us, the people of the USA ..but the past 10 years I have been proven wrong .One thing that has to be done is to get rid of "Citizens United" .

6:18PM PST on Jan 17, 2012

Please understand: Giant corporations that are housed overseas have absolutely NO responsibility towards the U.S. They see how people live in other countries like Mexico, India and Korea and figure that WE should live like that too - Living meager existences in ramshackle outbuildings while at the same time slaving to make the 1% even wealthier. There are only so many pieces of the pie to go around. If they give you a piece - Even a sliver - That means their piece has to be a little bit smaller. And we can't have THAT! - Can we???

12:48AM PST on Jan 16, 2012

This is heartbreaking and getting relatable to more and more of us.

3:58PM PST on Jan 6, 2012

this is so sad. i go and feed the homeless, and am always surprised to see just how many kids show up that are hungry.

8:45PM PST on Jan 2, 2012

It is sad for kids to have such an unpredictable/ unstable life.

12:45PM PST on Jan 2, 2012

And of course these republican "bible thumpers" want to ban birth control, and abortion, so there will be more homeless, starving children. This in fact makes republicans the "anti-Christ".
Real "Christians" would want to end all suffering, not add to it.

4:49PM PST on Dec 31, 2011

William B. Your words...Impale them, it definitely has media value but my first thought was from an ol' French saying, from the Revolution, "let their heads roll." I'm ol' school.

Carole R, The 1% needs to do nothing and they will not unless we break their backs.

Tomoko H. Remember, the right love you until you are born, at least we can depend upon them for one thing...leading us into the 6th Century and they condemn our Arab brothers. Pure Shat!

Sahar m. That is an easy one...DEBT. Yes, DEBT!!! A person in debt is a person who has become afraid, afraid of losing all that unpaid for crap. Carl Marx was accredited for the phrase, "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."

Mark S, Well done, my exact thoughts.

Crystal C, My heart goes out to you and your family, we run a food bank for folks like your family, America is not suppose to be a place where there is such an abundance and yet it is concentrated among so few, the 1%. There are now 400 "people" that possess a concentrated wealth, greater that 167 million Americans.

2:31PM PST on Dec 31, 2011

The greed of the few is causing the suffering of the many. We must no longer be silent about the injustices. We must reach out and help wherever we can.

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Kathleen J. Kathleen is currently the Activism Coordinator at Care2. more
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