Homeless Children at School

October 9, 2012 at 8:59 am | Posted in Fairness | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Children sleeping in Mulberry Street (1890), Jacob Riis (May 3, 1849 - May 26, 1914)

Children sleeping in Mulberry Street (1890), Jacob Riis (May 3, 1849 – May 26, 1914).

This post was triggered by a recent article by Petula Dvorak in the Washington Post, about poor children.

Some years ago, I was the President of a local chapter of a major national and international scientific and engineering society.

The society was holding its annual meeting in a nearby city, and as the nearest local chapter, we were designated to host an Educators’ Day for the K-12 teachers in the area.

The teachers who attended were enthusiastic and interested.  They were eager to share their experiences and problems.  What they had to say was informative, and sometimes even shocking.

A significant number of the most interested teachers came from Washington, DC, since it neighbored the city (Baltimore) where the meeting was being held.

One of the teachers from DC mentioned that 85% of the students in her classes were from homeless families.  Those children mostly lived in city shelters.

The city thought that it had to motivate homeless families to keep looking for a job.  It thought that they needed additional incentive to try to cease being homeless.  It feared that they might become comfortable and rooted in a particular shelter.

So no family was allowed to remain in the same shelter for more than two or three consecutive months.  When that time was up, the family had to try to find another shelter with space for them.

What would that do to a child’s ability to learn?  To concentrate?  To make friends, and establish enduring relationships with other children and adults?

What would that do to a parent’s ability to find a job, and to get to it each day, on time?

The city’s bizarre thinking is a perfect example of ‘penny wise and pound foolish’.  Instead of transitioning families out of welfare, instead of helping the children of homeless families to become well adjusted, law abiding, well educated employable adults, the city’s policy undermined both goals.

Street Child, Srimangal Railway Station, Srimangal, Maulvi Bazar, Bangladesh.  Photo by Md. Tanvirul Islam.

Street Child, Srimangal Railway Station, Srimangal, Maulvi Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo by Md. Tanvirul Islam.
The Peachtree-Pine shelter in Atlanta, Georgia.  Photo byjramspott, 23 June 2009.

The Peachtree-Pine shelter in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by jramspott, 23 June 2009.

2 Comments »

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  1. Did you ever see the film, ‘Bless the Child’? you witnessed the effects of this judgement on the homeless firsthand. well done for blogging about it.

  2. […] moving account nicely complements a post (Homeless Children at School) in this […]


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