Michael is 9. He was coming home on the bus for the summer parks program and his friend was dropped off at the place where he lived. It was the shelter.

Michael was scared for him and unhappy that his friend had to live in the shelter. He was a kid just like him. It worried him, he felt scared for him and even more, he wanted him to have a home. His mom is a friend of mine through her mother and grandmother. So, I agreed to talk with him about it.

As we talked I knew I wanted to write about it. Through his eyes it is all so simple. No kid needs to live in a shelter. They need a home. We talked about how many kids do experience homelessness and it isn’t a few, the children were the No. 1 or No. 2 population at the shelter the entire time I ran it and that was from 1985 until 2019. Today, Haven House Services works with the homeless still through local hotels and motels and then right into housing; children are our single largest population.

Michael wanted me to write about how he thinks we need to all get more involved and we all need to help. He wanted me to tell people to make it easier for families to find housing. I would love that magic wand. I explained that housing was out of reach to many families, a two-bedroom here easily rents for $1,100-$1,300 per month without utilities. Add in all the other costs and those earning under $22 per hour just find it difficult to rent. Section 8 lists are loaded when they are open at all. Public housing has few openings, and while a few landlords still keep it reasonable they are few in number. He thought we could build more but when I explained that many people didn’t want them in their neighborhoods he was confused and hurt. He wants people to think differently.

I hope to see that day. I told Michael and his mother about the effort of the National Coalition for the Homeless and the Bring America Home Campaign and what that could mean to low income and homeless families. I ask them to endorse the campaign and I hope you do as well. That campaign will push legislation that will create real solutions to homelessness. It isn’t rocket science. The demand for affordable housing is much larger than the supply of truly affordable housing. I get that communities want higher income households and that means they will build to attract them but those with less need to be planned for as well. They work in our restaurants, sweep our floors, fix our cars, paint our houses, provide labor in our factories, and in this community constitute 60% of the homeless population.

The shelter is full of employed people. The families we work with are employed but they are what we used to call underemployed. The Bring America Home Campaign hopes to educate the country on the vast and very different kinds of needs within those the population of our citizens living unhoused in this country and to prioritize housing the unhoused and developing that housing in every part of this country. So, our goal is to get signatures from all over the country to present to lawmakers showing the level of concern we as Americans have on the issue of homelessness and poverty.

Please, go to the website for the National Coalition for the Homeless and hit the link to the Bring America Home Campaign. Endorse the campaign and let people know where you stand on helping those most in need in this country. Michael saw that day what many have refused to see. He witnessed firsthand the plight of someone who had no home and he responded to it. He interviewed with me and wanted me to say to the larger population to deal with it and build housing people can live in affordably. He had a different message to elected officials and community leaders. He wants them to do something tangible. To him it is simple, if we don’t have enough, build more. It is to me as well. We have to have housing that is available, affordable, and part of every community. It needs to be accessible, available, and spread throughout the community so as not to concentrate poverty.

We can do this, and in Michael’s words: ”We have to help them, they need us.” It really is that simple. Please go to the website and sign on to the Bring America Home Campaign. Let those that lead know where your priorities are and stand up for those unhoused. Be a Michael.

Barbara Anderson is a local human rights activist. Contact her at barbanderson_1@yahoo.com

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