When I was growing up, I was afraid of three things: sharks, clowns and being homeless. Sharks and clowns were pretty typical childhood phobia fare. Just monsters with fins or face paint, after all.
But homelessness was a little more dark and revealing. The truth is, it was probably the most realistic fear I had. My parents were working folks who were a paycheck away, as they say. And I think I realized that, somehow, like kids do. It took a toll on me. It did. And I always had my own bed, my own room – a home. But just knowing how close we were to losing that entered my little kid head and became as much a part of me as my love of scratch ‘n sniff stickers and Nancy Drew mysteries. So I can’t imagine, I simply can’t imagine, the affect true homelessness has on a child.
And yet, as you’ll read in this month’s issue, it is an all-too-frequent reality. The face of homelessness is not only the man in the underpass huddled between cardboard boxes. It is often a woman and her child or children.
And some might say, “Well, I’m sure she made some bad choices and didn’t save enough and … ” but really that’s a way of saying she deserves it. And while it’s true that some bad choices can be part of the equation that equals homelessness, that doesn’t mean it’s OK or deserved. And it certainly doesn’t mean that a child should live this way.
We have all made bad choices, had bad breaks and bad luck. And when those come together, the results can be dire. That is the situation many Michigan families are trying to fight their way back from.
January can be such a brutal month. Now that the holiday is over, can’t the cold weather be packed up with the garland and lights? But it lingers on past its welcome. And while so many of us are looking for ideas to cure our kids’ cabin fever and blow off steam, I hope we can also turn our attention to those who’d be so happy to have such a privileged problem.
Today, at age 43, I have a home of my own and I’m proud – and grateful – to say that I am not just a paycheck away from being homeless. But that fear? It’s still there. The love of stickers and Nancy Drew books has waned, but that part of my identity is ingrained.