Over 1.6 million children in America are homeless. They sleep in cars, cram into apartments with other families, or line up in shelters. The New York Times’s recent Invisible Child series tells the story of one eleven-year-old shelter resident, Dasani, a bright, strong girl who takes care of her younger siblings and struggles to focus in school. Dasani lives in a decaying shelter, her family’s room infested with mice and lead paint.
Dasani isn’t alone: she’s one of over 22,090 homeless children in New York City. If you have some time, read her story.
Certainly, deeper policy changes need to occur to help homeless children. No child should be living with eight other people in a single room for three years, trying to sleep on a torn mattress. But, in the meantime, other, more immediate supports for food, housing, and clothes can help homeless children and their families. There are ways all of us can work together to make our country a place where all children have a safe, clean place to sleep at night.
Here’s what you can do to help children like Dasani:
Donate to support local organizations that serve the homeless through advocacy or by providing longer-term housing for families. The Coalition for the Homeless in New York is one such agency. Or, in Colorado, Warren Village works to end homelessness by providing housing, childcare, and supportive services to low-income, single parent families. If you don’t have extra money to donate this season, consider clearing out gently used linens or toys and bringing them to the local shelter for families.
Advocate for housing and supports that can change lives for the homeless. Join with the National Coalition for the Homeless, an organization now focused on securing funds for the National Housing Trust Fund that will then provide affordable rental homes for low-income families. Or, join with Moms Rising as they advocate for a variety of causes, such as a fair living wage, that can prevent homelessness for families.
You can also give a gift that fights hunger or homelessness this holiday season. For example, through Feeding America’s symbolic gift catalog, you can purchase peanut butter ($50), in place of a yet another pair of socks that the people on your list don’t really need.
Or, consider buying one of Habitat for Humanity’s plastic house banks ($3.75), and then challenging your family to fill it up with spare change over the course of 2014. At the end of the year, you can donate that money back to Habitat for Humanity to support their work building affordable homes around the world.
Image courtesy of morguefile