July 11, 2005
-- by Thomas Leavitt
The items below are an extract from the latest article in Jay Shaft's series on the growth of hunger, poverty and homelessness in America, Concrete Is Cold And Hard At Night: The Children’s Voices.
Homeless families are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population and account for almost 40 percent of all newly reported cases of homelessness. Homeless children are hungry more than twice as often as other children, and two-thirds worry that they won’t have enough to eat. Nationally, one in four people in a soup kitchen line is a child. In 2003 60 percent of all newly reported cases of homeless were single mothers with children. (National Coalition for the Homeless, America’s Second Harvest)
For most of the 1990’s the number of children in poverty was declining. Then between 2000 and 2002, there were an additional 546,000 children who slipped into poverty. In 2003 at least 500,000 more children plummeted into poverty, and additional 300,000-400,000 children were listed as being at the borderline of poverty. In 2004 it is estimated that 550,000-600,000 children slipped into poverty, and at least 400,000-500,000 more were at the boarderline.
That's 1.5 million more children in poverty than when George W. Bush, Jr. took office. Message: Democrats pull children out of poverty, Republicans put them into it.
Here's a quote from one of the children Jay interviewed, Sara (a 12 year old who has been homeless for a year):
When asked if she has gone hungry she just got an exasperated look, like it was the stupidest question she had ever heard.
“Duh! What do you think?” she asks with some irritation. “I am hungry all the time, even when there is enough food. I am afraid to eat till I’m really full because we might run out of food if we’re little pigs. I ate as much as I could on Thanksgiving but that was the only time this year I’ve been really full. I ate six pieces of pie and had three plates of turkey. I wish we had that much food all the time.”
“I stopped believing in Santa a long time ago, but I wish he was real. I all want is to be able to sleep in my own bed and have mom cook our favorite foods,” she says with a wistful expression. “I want to eat until I explode, then I’d eat more. I want my family to be safe and warm in a house, that’s my Christmas wish. I don’t want anything else, just that.”
I can't read this without feeling an overwhelming sense of outrage, sadness, and anger. No child should be put through this.
You want message? You want frameworks? You want talking points? Here you go: the Republicans/right-wing can't win if Sara's needs are put front and center in the discussion, and the Democrats/progressives can't win until they do. Period. End of story.
I want to see Sara's concerns at the top of the Democratic Party's agenda, I want to see Sara's image on election posters everywhere, I want to hear Sara's voice on every radio, and her plight be the subject of an unending barrage of commercials that pin her hunger directly on the cruelty and indifference of the Republican Party and the right-wing ideologues that dominate it.
Politics, everything we discuss on this and other blogs, boils down to putting food in Sara's mouth, and giving her the physical and mental security she needs to do well in a properly funded public school, so that she has the best possible chance to become a productive, contributing member of society. The right-wing doesn't have an answer for this, we do. That's the message we need to be pounding home, every day, that's the message we need to be blogswarming, and shoving to the top of the American media and political establishment's agenda.
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