To be young and homeless

A sobering thought to reflect on as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus: an estimated 1.6 million young people are homeless in the United States. At She the People, a blog on The Washington Post website, Bernardine Watson writes:

Most are between the ages of 15-17 years old . They are equally divided between males and females. About a third are black and studies show that almost half identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender (LGBT). LBGT youth are at particular risk of homelessness because they are so often rejected by their families, schools and communities. But regardless of who they are, on any night, in any season– including Christmas– these young people are sleeping on our streets, in public places or abandoned buildings, in emergency shelters or prevailing on the kindness of friends or strangers, for a bed.

There are a lot of reasons why young people end up homeless. Some leave home after years of neglect, physical and sexual abuse, strained family relationships, the addiction of family members and family economic problems. Youth can also become homeless when they are discharged from foster care or other institutional settings with no housing or income support. As if this situation isn’t bad enough, organizations that focus on homeless youth say the problem is getting worse. The National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) reports that between 2007 and the 2011-2012 school year, homelessness among students of all grades, rose 72 percent.

I wonder if there is any chance that in the coming year American citizens will begin to feel any sort of regret, shame and embarrassment about the appalling condition in which so many of our fellow citizens are living–usually through no fault of our own. A great many people who should know better–Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, for one, fall back on appalling theological arguments when confronted with the reality of homeless children, and others blame the victims.

As Stephen Colbert has said: “If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”

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