Back to school for every kid – back to cars for some

Homeless children in America

Journalist and blogger Dan Beckmann is back – this time with a post about the growing number of homeless families in Central Florida. Thank you, Dan, for caring about these issues, and for continually sharing your talents with Coalition for the Homeless!

There’s something terribly wrong going on here.  And it’s happening right in front of us.

200,000 kids in our state will be going back to school this week.  When the bell rings at the end of the day, they’ll go home to a house.  Nearly 56,000 others will not.

Here in Central Florida – the tourism capital of the world – it’s expected that over 10,000 students will not have a home to go to at all, and that’s an increase over the year before.  First in the world when it comes to theme park entertainment – fourth highest enrollment of homeless students in the nation.  How’s that for irony?

According to the U.S. Dept. of Education, the 2010-2011 school year witnessed an unprecedented first – one million homeless children in America.  While families with children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, experts feel another historic first may be on the way.  It’s a third-world problem right here in our very own backyard.

Families doubling-up in hotel rooms and others seeking refuge in shelters have made the face of homelessness unrecognizable.  It’s almost impossible to distinguish between someone who lives in a house, as opposed to someone who calls a car “home.”

But you know these kids.  You see them every day.  Your children’s desks are next to them in class.  Your seats are next to their parents at school meetings.  And when the meeting is over, you drive to a house.  They return to a parking lot, a shelter or a motel.

The rising number of homeless families is so staggering that caring volunteers and organizations designed to help them are overwhelmed.  Mother Teresa once said, “It is not how much you do, but how much love you put in the doing.”  Maybe our “doing” is to, first and foremost, be aware.  Look around and pay attention.  It sounds small, but recognizing can lead to big things.  It can lead to help.  Turning a blind eye?  Well, we know how that’s worked out.

This school year, with a lot of people “doing” a little, the chances of changing a lot could be just around the corner.