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Homelessness Must be Given Top Priority

We need to do more to address the problem of homelessness. Homeless rates continue to rise in the United States now more than ever due to our severe economic crisis.

A few weeks ago, President Obama was asked about the problem at his press conference. To his credit, he gave a compassionate response.

"Part of the change in attitudes that I want to see here in Washington and all across the country," the president said, "is a belief that it is not acceptable for children and families to be without a roof over their heads in a country as wealthy as ours." But today families make up 34 percent of the homeless population, and one in every 50 children is homeless in America, according to the National Center on Family Homelessness.

The homeless are disproportionately Black and brown, 43 percent Black and 15 percent Hispanic, according to the center. And the faces of the homeless are getting younger, especially among the Latino community. ?

Many of the Latino parents who end up being homeless do not speak English and sometimes they do not know where to seek aid. Also, some organizations that work on homeless issues do not know how to reach out to them.

For all children, homelessness is especially tragic. They worry about where they're going to sleep at night. They worry about their own safety - and that of their parents. They often feel ashamed and keep it a secret from their teachers or school administrators. Many have difficulty concentrating on their academics and cannot do their homework under a bridge or in the cramped, smelly, cheap motel rooms where illicit activities are rampant. They move from school district to school district sometimes several times a year, which makes it even harder for them to make the grade.

As taxpayers, we must demand that our government help alleviate this problem. Instead of just bailing out and saving countless financial, automobile, and insurance institutions, our government should also help the homeless children in our midst. Investing in these children would cost a mere fraction of what it's costing us to bail out corporate America. And we have a moral imperative to do so.

Insufficient funding to help homeless children must not be tolerated any longer. Let's not ignore the homeless issue. Let's not pretend that homeless children do not exist. They do. And it's our shame.

[Randy Jurado Ertll is the author of the upcoming book "Hope in Times of Darkness."]


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