Archive for March 2012
The Los Angeles Mission spends most of its time focusing on serving the immediate needs of adults experiencing homelessness and life challenges. But, occasionally we get a chance to talk about helping to prevent homelessness – stopping it before it starts.
In many instances the seeds of future homelessness are planted in childhood. Children who do not learn basic reading and writing skills are much more likely to fall into homelessness. The lack of these important skills follows them into adulthood. They have more trouble finding work in the first place, more difficultly holding a job when they find one, and limited opportunities to improve their income through advanced training. Peel back unemployment statistics and you will find an extreme variance between skilled and unskilled labor rates, not to mention ethnicity and age.
I frequently refer to a State of Florida statistic. It seems the state predicts its future prison bed needs based on its third grade literacy rates. That is both appalling and encouraging to me. Appalling that there can be any sort of predictive relationship between the two statistics. Encouraging in that increasing the placement of educational resources into these core competencies could change the future direction of our kids.
This is why the Mission was excited to partner with others to encourage students to stay in school. We have a Back to School Block Party every August to focus attention on the needs of kids returning to school, and we have a great time doing it!
Recently, due to one of our donor’s generosity, we were able to assist a project at Nightingale Middle School (http://enrichla.org/2012/03/enrich-la-common-studio-partner-create-gardens-at-nightingale-middle-school) focused on healthy eating with locally grown products. Kids will learn about proper nutrition and learn ways to grow food items themselves. For some kids this might be the activity that engages them in school and with the leadership of great educators – keeps them learning for a lifetime– and off the streets.
It is never too soon to address the challenges of homelessness. No third grader I know ever raised their hand and said “I want to be homeless living on concrete in skid row,” when asked what they want to be when they grow up. Let’s make that a reality for future generations as we work diligently to address the needs of today’s homeless citizens.
-Herb Smith, President