I spent my childhood during the '70s in a small Californian mountain village. Some kids may have had more or less than I, but from a kid's perspective we all seemed pretty equal. Back then there were no homeless people in our small town, and there certainly were no homeless children.
My daughter's school experience mirrored mine until we moved to Louisville, KY in 2005. Beautiful, thriving and well heeled, as the 16th largest city in America it may well be the best kept secret in the nation. However, as a large city, it is not without its challenges.
A few years ago my daughter realized there were homeless children in her school system, over 9,000 actually. We'd have discussions about the situation, such as how families choose to sleep in parks rather than use mixed use cot shelters because they tend to be filled with drug addicts and worse. Some of these children became her friends, though they'd vanish inexplicably, often never to be seen again.
The issue persisted and the discussions continued. As a mom I just wanted to bring them all to my house. These children aren't panhandlers or criminals, they're children, many of whose families aren't those things either. Most are simply victims of the housing and economic collapse, who in an instant became discarded.
My daughter has since turned 16 and now there are 11,000 homeless children in our city and 1.6 million homeless children across our nation. They are a part of our nation's future. Out of sheer frustration my daughter burst upon me one day and pointedly asked, "Are there no smart adults who can solve this problem?"
Reams have been written about the issue with lots of concerned citizen comments. While all that concern is great, nothing seriously tangible is being done, further underscored by the fact the numbers in my city just increased by 2000 more children. Every night when you go to bed, all those kids are still out there. Maybe it takes a fed up teenager to snap us into action and change the world.
Inspiration came one day in the form of a pink playhouse at Costco, and our mantra became, 'Think inside the box'. The playhouse inspired her to put tiny houses into a safe 'big box' Costco style warehouse. We developed it into a unique form of tiny modular houses set inside a specialized warehouse that would give each family a safe place to sleep, read, laugh, do homework and bathe - privately and securely. A habitat for families. Set up as a complete working community with resources just for families with children, everyone would work or contribute in some way to the habitat. The focus is on families, their children's education and their parent's advancement back into society.
So, I decided to be the adult to step up to the plate and take this on as a non-profit project through my organization, BreastHealthOnline.org. As we've already helped tens of thousands of women and their families live better lives around the world since 2000, surely we could help bring about actual change.
While we could look at trying to barn raise something in our city, we decided the bigger and better idea would be to develop a plan to help cities across the nation, and possibly around the world create these centers for themselves. Something that could potentially benefit every city, starting with our own.
Habitat for Families would help cities create working micro-communities, a sort of incubator to a better life and a win-win situation for the cities and communities. As a go-to 'brain trust' for cities, we're developing the blueprints, plans, best practices, resources and mentoring to help communities turn their homeless children and families into fiscally smart thriving successes.
The idea was granted entry into Bloomberg's 'Next Big Thing', which allowed us to enter Philips America Innovation Fellows Competition on Indiegogo. As part of the competition, we stand to gain $60,000 and some of the business and mentoring tools we'll need to be successful. Our plan is to bring this to fruition in conservative, metered stages. We simply need to raise at least half our first goal of $7500 and have 100 contributors on our campaign by Sept 30th. Which should be very achievable, don't you think?
Despite the fact I have a large network, at this writing we've raised $19, which is laughable in comparison to the massive numbers of people who claim America should have no children sleeping in the streets. Ironically, according to, Where We Sleep: The Costs of Housing and Homelessness in Los Angeles, each homeless individual without supportive housing costs tax payers in excess of $3,000 a month, not to mention the long term and chronic societal problems that exist along with that. Issues that as a society we really do not want, yet by default we're allowing to persist. Later this month, people will line up to buy the next iPhone. Yet when it comes to helping a homeless child live a better life and improve society as a whole, I'm told "times are very tough" when they are asked to contribute any amount, even one dollar. To say my daughter has had a set jaw and icy stare for days would be an understatement.
Tonight when you go to bed, 1.6 million children needed solutions today. I want to live in a society that is smart enough to solve our problems, particularly when it comes to changing the life of a child - our nation's future. Don't just lament the situation in the comments -- that enacts no change. It just assuages one's conscience. We need people who will actually step up to the plate to effect the change. If not you, then who?
You can help as well as read more about Habitat for Families through our campaign at Indiegogo: Habitat for Families. If you have a better idea, I encourage you to do it. Take action and make a difference in another human beings life and you will change the world.
Look up how many homeless children are in your city. Post them in the comments. We'll turn it into a graphic with your name and city to add to our campaign.