Tuesday 17 May 2005

Concrete Is Cold And Hard At Night

This article is a superb testament to what our society is becoming and says, in essence, that we're so "civilised" we allow poverty to exist and we allow innocent children to die of hunger on the streets. It made me realise that the people with the real money don't care, by that I mean the ones who wouldn't blink about spending £2000 on a bottle of wine in a swanky eatery. Their cold hearts are like ice to the suffering of little babies and so they try and convince us to give of the little WE have to charity. It's a proven fact that the people who give the largest part of their income to charity are the ones who can least afford it. While at the same time the super-rich give an amount so small as to be non-existent.

They think they are better than the rest of us by virtue of the size of their Swiss bank accounts or the blood in their veins. But they aren't! They are the venal and evil offspring of venal and evil fathers, each generation poisoned by it's wealth and power. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely and these vile "human" beings are so corrupt as to be indistinguishable from corruption itself! It is through them that all this suffering enters the world, through their actions that poverty and violence and fear enter all of our lives.

They breed instruments of death like experiments in a Petri dish, then they release their manufactured demons and the slaughter of innocence commences. Generation after generation, every hundred years or so they start a massive war and the flower of "ordinary" humanity is consigned to a fiery and miserable death. War after war sons follow fathers into battle, their heads filled with "patriotism" and "nationalism" and they are waved off with all the fanfare befitting lambs entering a slaughter-house. At the end they are all the same, all of them rotting on the battlefield like the foul stench from untreated sewage flowing in the streets.

The wealthy guard their privilege so jealously, with their guards and their dogs, and their cameras and their guns. They are frightened of being found out. They are frightened of us. That's why they extend their tentacles of control! Up go the camera masts and down come the very freedoms those "people" claim to be upholding. They bleat on endlessly about "democracy" and "freedom" and "peace" and "justice" and "liberty" but it's all Orwellian double-speak, and they know it!

All of the "news" is merely propaganda designed to blind us to the truth of their heinous crimes and manipulate us into acquiescing to whatever scheme they happened to have dreamed up. Those heinous crimes, I will remind you, have been committed in our names! They feed us with "Big Brother" and none of us seem to see that they what they are really doing is turning "Big Brother" from an Orwellian enslaver of humanity into a nice fluffy Telly-tubby! They must be rubbing their fat little hands in glee at the thought of how they have so perfectly manipulated us. September 11 is a wonderful example of how an outrageous lie told so often and by so many people, ultimately becomes its own truth! Scratch the surface of the events on that day of barbarity and you will see that there is no more truth in what the US Government is saying than there is in the idea that Lee Harvey Oswald managed to shoot and kill JFK on his lonesome from that book depository window!

Which leads me to my next point, the problem we face is that if one of us becomes so popular as to constitute a threat then the beast kicks swiftly into action and that voice is silenced. That is why we must speak with one voice, at the same time. If all of us shouted the word "NO" simultaneously and at the top of our voices it would probably shake the very core of this planet! That's what it will take; not one voice, not a hundred voices, not a thousand, no, a billion voices all speaking the same words in unison. Maybe that's asking too much but somehow I don't think so because if there is anything that I know about life and people it's that we are bascially all the same in the sense that ultimately we want the same basic things out of life.

At the end of the day the power is theirs by virtue of the fact that WE give it to them. It's like money, if WE didn't believe it had any value it would be worthless paper. The same holds true of the plutocrats and their power, we give them power because they manipulate us into thinking that we have no choice, but we do have a choice most of us just don't realise it! All the messages they send us through media tell us to distrust each other and be afraid of everything and everyone. They tell us we're not good enough so many times a day in such incredibly subliminal ways that is it a wonder most of us are emotional basket-cases?

Forget about "conspiracy theories" or wacky websites or what you see on TV, most of all don't believe anything or anyone - least of all me! Look around and think about what you see. If you want to know how to react, watch George Galloway's brilliant performance tearing a US Senate sub-committee to pieces!

Will history mark this period as the one in which the majority of humans succumbed to enslavement by a tiny minority of rich, fat, selfish, greedy, nasty, violent control-freaks? Will history mark us as the useless "Nintendo" generation that sat idly by sipping ice-cold cokes and munching on Pringles while, far away in Iraq, people were tortured and killed in our name?

By Jay Shaft - Coalition For Free Thought In Media

This series of articles is an outlet for the people who are living through an overwhelming crisis. They want to tell everyone how bad it really is, and how terrible their day to day living conditions have become. Their voices will reveal the true depth of despair that many working class and low income people are living with on a daily basis.

I have spoken to over 300 families that have lost permanent housing. They tell horrifying tales of not being able to find emergency shelter for weeks or months at a time. They tell of the long housing list waits of two years or more, and how in many circumstances they don’t even qualify by HUD’s definition of homelessness.

It was really hard to hear the families talk about the fear of reporting their true situation because they are afraid their children will be taken away. Many families are losing custody rights after a state agency removes their children when they tell the truth about being without adequate shelter and access to food.

These are some of the voices of the children lost in a world of poverty, homelessness and despair. Their voices are the most painful to listen to. Everyone needs to hear their stories to fully understand the nightmare of homelessness and poverty from a child’s perspective.

A Brief Overview on Homeless Children and Families

Every night there are approximately 1,500,000 homeless children in America. Over half of all homeless families have been without shelter for over six months. Nationally families with children make up approximately 40 percent of the overall homeless population, with 42 percent of homeless being children under the age of five. Approximately 85 percent of all homeless parents with children are single mothers. The average homeless family is composed of a young single mother and two children under the age of six. (National Coalition for the Homeless, US Conference of Mayors, Urban Institute)

Homeless families are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population and account for almost 40% 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)

A severe lack of affordable housing in the United States combined with growing poverty is largely responsible for a major rise in the number of homeless and precariously housed families over the last few years. Affordable housing is defined as a person paying no more than 30% of income for rent or mortgage payments. No where in the United States does a full-time minimum wage job enable a family of four to pay fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment

There are now record numbers of families and single mothers reporting that they are sharing overcrowded or inadequate accommodations with others. At least 7.3 million people described themselves as precariously housed when applying for food stamps and other forms of public assistance in 2004. (USDA, HUD)

According to recent member agency surveys, the National Coalition for the Homeless estimates that there are at least 10 million children living in conditions that qualify as fitting the government profile for precarious housing. Children often appear among the precariously housed population because parents who become homeless may place their children with friends or relatives in order to avoid literal homelessness for them.

Nearly 40% of American children live in families with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level, the amount needed for most families to be economically self-sufficient. Low-income families face material hardships and financial pressures similar to families who are officially acknowledged as poor.

Today more than 28 million people, about a quarter of the workforce between the ages of 18 and 64, earn less than $9.04 an hour, which translates into a full-time salary of $18,800 a year, the income that marks the federal poverty line for a family of four.

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 300-400,000 children were listed as being at the borderline of poverty.

Here is something shocking that should really give you an idea of how truly pervasive the poverty problems in America. In 2002 about one in three people in the US was poor enough to be classified as living in poverty for at least two months of the year, according to recent data from the US Census Bureau. Overall, 63 percent of U.S. families below the federal poverty line have one or more full time workers.

The Children Speak

Sara is 12, and has been homeless for almost a year. She moves from motel to shelter to parking lot with her mother and her three sisters. Her mother lost a job in February 2004 and since then they have not had a place of their own to call home.

“I’m old enough to know how bad this really is,” she says with a hardened look. “My sisters are pretty young, but I think they know that this isn’t like vacation anymore. When we first lost our house they thought it was some big game. Now they are scared Santa won’t be able to find us this year.”

“We sleep in our car when we can’t find a shelter, we’ve been in eight cities and my mom is thinking about going to another one” she says with a frustrated sigh. “I haven’t been to the same school for more than three weeks. I wish we could find someplace to stay for good, just so I could get some friends and stay in one school.”

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.”

“We’re almost out of food again, because mom went to every place she could find that gave out food” she explains. “You can’t go to most places more than once a month, so we try to get all the food we can when we get into a new town. We eat at soup kitchens and I know my mom gets some food from grocery store dumpsters. I don’t tell my sisters because they wouldn’t eat any food if they knew that.”

She has no clear idea of what the future will bring, and the fear and doubt show in her eyes and the lines in her face. It was sad to see a twelve year old with worry lines on her face. She has a look of age beyond her years and knowledge of how to survive that no child should have to acquire.

“I am so scared they will take us from my mom. It’s not her fault that we are homeless, but she can get in big trouble if they find out we’re living on the street,” she says with a fearful look. “They would break us all up and I might never see my sisters or my mom again.”

Her dream for Christmas is to live in a house again and be able to have three refrigerators full of her favorite foods.

“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.”

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 300-400,000 children were listed as being at the borderline of poverty.

Maccanon Brown is Director of Repairers of Breach, a grassroots homeless outreach in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She can recite endless facts and figures, but says that is only a brief glimpse at what is really going on with homeless children.

“Our biggest failure as a society is to have children living on the streets in deplorable conditions. Our biggest sin is turning our backs on them and pretending that they don’t exists!” she exclaims adamantly. “Everyday more children become homeless or lose stable housing, and it just devastates them. Their whole lives become a nightmare that they can’t begin to adapt to.”

She says she sees many children who are experiencing emotional or mental problems after becoming homeless.

“Do theses kids know what’s going on in their lives? Yes! Even the very young ones seem to be able to figure it out to a major extent,” she says. “They know that they are homeless and it is tragic to see what the knowledge does to them. It changes their entire life and they will remember it for the rest of their lives. The average stay on the streets is increasing and the longer they are homeless the greater the emotional damage. It’s the children who have to carry the stigma of being homeless throughout their entire lives.”

Her anger with the fact that the number of homeless and hungry children is going up while most people seem to be ignoring it is a palpable thing. You can feel her disgust and irritation as she describes the perils and plights that the innocent children have to suffer.

“We see children who are malnourished and missing meals, here in this land of plenty. To deny a hungry child a meal is so tragic. Even if it’s done out of ignorance it’s still wrong, but people have to be able to see what’s going on. It’s in every city and on every corner, how can people not see it?”

“I just can’t believe that the bigger this problem grows, the more people try and ignore or minimize it. We must face up to this and try to get as many children off the streets as possible,” she says with great passion. “That’s one of the hardest things about working with homeless families. You know most of the time there is not a lot you can do but provide a temporary solution. It tears your heart out having to look into the child’s eyes and know that the odds are stacked against them.”

Meagan is 7, and lives in an abandoned building with her mom and three year old brother. Her mother has fixed up their space with curtains and bright wall hangings, but no amount of effort can hide the fact that they live in horribly dirty and depressing conditions.

“I hate living here, I miss my house so bad. I want my toys and my TV, but mom says we’re lucky to have running water,” she says with an uncomprehending look on her face. “It’s not fair that we have to live here, it’s yucky and it smells. I see rats and roaches every day, ewwww, they are nasty. I miss going to school and playing with my friends.”

When asked if she understands why they are living in the abandoned building she hesitates and then starts crying. She seems to be able to grasp many of the harsh realities, but is upset by not being able to understand the whole situation.

“My daddy left, then mommy said we had to move. She said the bill man came and took our house,” she says through her tears. “I only got to take one bag of toys and some clothes. I had to leave all my big stuffed animals and my games. Mommy won’t really tell me what’s going to happen, but I know it’s bad.”

She says she wants her daddy back, and then she wants to go home.

“I asked God to bring my daddy back and let us go home. I miss him so much, and my dog Spots, he went with daddy,” she explains. “I told mommy I would be good for a whole year if God brought daddy back, but mommy won’t tell me where he is. I just want us to be together again and a happy family like before.”

Homeless families are sixteen times more likely to relocate than the typical American family. A child needs four to six months to recover academically from a change in schools. Among students who miss 20 or more school days a year during first, second, or third grade, 66 percent will drop out of school. (Institute for Children and Poverty, National Coalition for the Homeless)

Katherine Preston is the executive director of the Georgia Coalition to End Homelessness. She says that many of the children they see are emotionally and physically harmed by being homeless or in unstable housing conditions.

“Unless you see it first hand you would not believe how much being homeless affects the children. It scars them for life and seems to change something in them,” she explains. “When they are constantly moving from motels to shelters and back to motels it fundamentally damages them in ways that are often hard to see at first. Without stable accommodations and a steady source of food their entire lives turn into a giant question mark. The lack of knowing what will happen next can tear a child apart.”

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