I just got through watching the HBO documentary — “Homeless – The Motel Kids of Orange County”. It was on CNN. I decided to watch it, because last week Fullerton decided to evict their homeless from the library property that recently closed. There was a discussion about it on the Orange Juice Blog and one of the commenter’s wrote, “Many choose to be homeless”. I hope that person watched the same documentary I just watched.
The focus was on a few families in Anaheim who do not choose to be homeless and they have jobs. They are the working homeless. The ones who are lucky, live in motels that are in walking distance to the “happiest place on earth,” Disneyland. One of the motel residents is a 42 year old widow living in a cramped motel room with her 3 children. Her oldest who is around 12 has already been in trouble with the law. His crime? Acting out, theft and destroying public property. His younger sibling was asked, “What do you look forward to?”– his reply, “nothing.” He is 6 years old.
Their mother works at Disneyland and has been for two years. She makes $9.25 an hour. Disney just raised their rates to get in to their theme park this month. How much do you want to bet, that the employees won’t see a dime more in their paycheck? Tourists are under the impression that Disney is a great employer — if they only knew the story.
The only place kids have to play is the motel parking lots and dumpsters. Signs are posted by the motel office, “Sex Offender Registry”…”No Prostitution Allowed.” Kids showed the camera crew where the illegal drugs were stashed on the property. Cops showing up to “take people to jail” is a common occurrence — And we wonder why kids get in trouble at such an early age. Many motel mattresses have bed bugs, and the way the staff deal with that problem is — to “air” the infested mattress out in the parking lot a few days, then clean it and put it back in the room.
The only constant that seems to be in these kids’ life is their school, Project Hope School, which is open year round. They are provided breakfast and lunch and they are picked up by a school bus and dropped off to wherever they are living at the end of the day. Their living situation can change often and some of these kids have to sleep in parks with their parents if they don’t have enough money for even one night in a motel room.
Politicians have been hashing things out over the “farm bill” and food stamps is included in that bill. There are members of Congress who want to slash food stamps. I dare anyone of them to spend a week in the shoes of these children. Has any of them even missed one meal themselves? If we didn’t have food stamps, we would see soup kitchens and lines several blocks long of people just trying to survive.
I used to live in San Francisco and I saw soup kitchen lines back in the late 90s. These were people who came to Glide Memorial Church to get one meal and for many it was their only meal for the day. It was a mix of men, women, families, homeless and working poor. That was in the late 90s — I can only imagine how much longer those lines are today.
Is this the “safety net” that Mitt Romney was talking about when he was running for president? Politicians, mostly the GOP and Tea Party believe that Americans just need to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” — these people can’t afford boots!
We seem to always have enough money to send to other countries, and no money for those who need help at home. Don’t get me started about all the billions we send to countries who don’t need the financial help, like Israel and Pakistan. How about the millions we just found out that the CIA was giving to Hamid Karzai — can you say bribe? How about extortion? And that’s my tax dollars! Your tax dollars! And right here in America we have people, families — working families living in parks, cars and if they are lucky — motels.
We LOVE to tell people we are the “greatest country in the world”– We are a SUPER POWER! Is this how we show it — by turning a blind eye to those who need help? And don’t tell me these people just need to get better jobs, because there are no better jobs! I don’t care what the job numbers say — 7.5% unemployment? If that’s true then I am the Queen of England! I don’t know anyone who works full time anymore. Do you? Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck right now. So anyone of us could end up in the same living situation as these families. Think about it.