Media Attention to Child Homelessness Inspires Action Across America
Joblessness and foreclosures make it on the front page daily, but the effect on our most vulnerable population, America’s children doesn’t always make headlines. Recently the media has focused the spotlight on how the recession is forcing families with school-age children out of their homes. We’re seeing in-depth coverage across the nation, in North Carolina and Mississippi, on “60 Minutes” and on Capitol Hill. The impressive thing is the positive change these stories are drumming up for their community.
Seminole County, Florida
On “60 Minutes” Scott Pelley reports on the record number of children descending into poverty, quickly nearing a quarter of all children in America. In Seminole County 1,000 students have recently become homeless. In the ten-minute piece, Pelley talks with some remarkable students about the experience of moving in with neighbors, sleeping in the family van, and packing into local motels. It's worth watching the video to hear from these inspiring young people and understand the challenges they never expected to face.
Since the piece aired, Stetson University, a private school in DeLand, FL has offered scholarships to a brother and sister featured on “60 Minutes.” Arielle Metzger, 15, had on a Stetson T-shirt during her interview and the school’s alumni took notice. Now a freshman in high school, the young woman spoke about her aspirations to become a child-advocacy attorney. The well-spoken siblings are grateful for the assistance and excited by the promise of attending college. The Metzger children were also invited to speak at a congressional hearing on December 15 about reexamining how homelessness is classified and aid distributed in the U.S.
December 4 the San Francisco Chronicle ran a powerful piece on the rising number of homeless children in the city's public schools. After reading the story, Lynne Benioff and her husband Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com approached Mayor Ed Lee to see what the city and the Salesforce Foundation could do to get homeless school-children and their families settled into public or subsidized housing by Christmas. Within a week the Mayor's office released this press release describing a new $3 million Home for the Holidays initiative to provide immediate relief to families. A bright spot in an otherwise bleak picture of America's homeless children and a good reminder of why we need to print stories like Jill Tucker's S.F. schools struggle with more homeless kids.
The Detroit Free Press is also publishing a four part series on homeless children in Michigan. It addresses the stigma children experience as a result of being homeless. The series conveys in detail how every aspect of a child’s life is impacted by not having a place to live. Like Scott Pelley’s piece, the series combines statistics with profiles of Detroit’s students, making their experiences palpable. The second half of the series importantly focuses on what is being done in Michigan to help these students, including families who are taking in homeless children instead of exchange students till they graduate from high school.
According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, more than 1.6 million children are homeless, “an increase of 38% during the years impacted by the economic recession.” To see how children are faring in your state take a look at America's Youngest Outcasts: State Report Card on Child Homelessness.