Ending Homelessness through prevention

“I believe the children are our future”.. you remember this song, it played 15 times a day on the radio and at every public gathering for a decade. It should be playing in your head when you plan to end homelessness.

I am reading the FAQ from Los Angeles’ Union Rescue Mission. In the first few entries the point is made that homeless adults can’t “just get jobs” because they can not read and don’t have life skills.

Where does the average person learn to read and do the math that basic money management takes – SCHOOL. One in Four (ratio 1:4 – see I remember something from 4th grade math) students drop out of High School and never see a diploma.  I didn’t make that up, it is from the Dept. of Education. In Los Angeles the rate is that one in three (1:3) drop out.

Students are not staying in school and learning the skills they need to succeed. My own child just went into a LAUSD school, and personally, I can tell you that the students who have not dropped out still have a high rate of illiteracy and it is not being addressed by the teachers or staff. Instead, they are out on the streets. UC Berkley says we are spending half a billion dollars a year on law enforcement for juvenile crimes of drop out students.

Caliteracy says “The phrase functionally illiterate describes those persons over the age of fifteen who are unable to read well enough to read a daily newspaper and comprehend it, or to read well enough to understand a simple contract, or a basic letter concerning their children’s school needs, or the pamphlets that are enclosed with prescription drugs that explain side effects and precautions. Certainly, this illiteracy makes it very hard for a person to hold a well-paying job, or to care for a family member, and is a contributing factor to poverty.”

Literacy starts in the home, with parents reading stories to children. It continues in the public libraries with story hours and puppet shows and grows into reading the funny pages of the news papers, the horoscopes, advice colums and silly fun parts of reading while parents explain the front page and share the sports section.  Finally, literacy should be fostered in the school system.

Sure, there are many homeless adults who can read, but more of them can not read well enough to fill out a job application without help. They do not write well enough to generate reports and logs that often come with  employment.

So, STEP ONE to ending homelessness – EDUCATION and teaching people how to read.

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