Poverty strikes children

Nicholas Collard

I picked up an issue of the Daily Breeze this weekend and fell back into the sinking seat cushion of a plush maroon armchair to enjoy an afternoon coffee with my news. Scanning the front page, I came upon an article that was more bitter to me than the drink in my other hand.

The article, with the headline “Homeless crisis is growing,” detailed the increasingly pervasive issue of poverty throughout Los Angeles County. The emphasis was on women and children, who now make up a staggering 40 percent of the city’s street population.

According to the article, about 90 percent of the 21,000 homeless women and 15,000 homeless children are living on the streets with no form of safe shelter.

The statistics are sobering, and they merit discussion about how such a prosperous and plentiful nation as ours could allow this level of sorrow and desperation to exist within the limits of one of its greatest cities.

The saddest thing is the children. Poverty’s root causes can be debated for hours on end, with a thousand different angles and a thousand different conclusions. But one thing is for certain: Children are the truly helpless and if our society allows them to exist as victims of abuse, starvation and exploitation, then we all share equal blame for the destitution that is certain to dominate the next adult generation and grow rapidly larger with each that follows.

This of course is only the product of a preexisting problem. More parents these days see their children as a nuisance to the life they feel was owed to them.

This notion is tragic and sickening, but so many of us have faced it.

What about those who were those who were just mildly neglected? Or worse yet, what about those who were abused? Who speaks for them?

It makes me shudder to think of children in the streets without guidance or hope. They do not stay innocent forever, and it’s a real shame that they should see the world through such hate and hunger-tinted glasses. The thought reminds me of Orson Scott Card’s description in his book “Enders Shadow” of little Bean’s life on the desolate streets of Rotterdam.

Could our country ever be like that? It is already on its way as parental apathy becomes a growing trend, so too will news reports of babies being thrown away like garbage, dumped in orphanages, or left at relatives’ homes indefinitely.

As the holidays come around, perhaps all of us can find it in our hearts to extend a helping hand of some sort to those living among us who really need and deserve it. Sure, we are college students and usually that entails that we all carry with us a huge financial burden already, but we mustn’t forget that true poverty is much less comfortable and promising than the temporary squalor we joke about having at parties.

Also, donations don’t have to be monetary. Plenty of service groups in the Los Angeles area are looking for people to donate their time if not their money.

These include: A Place Called Home (www.apch.org), the California Coalition for Youth (www.calyouth.org), and the LA Youth Rescue Fund (www.la-youth.org/main.htm).