By State Representative, Leon D. Young
Let me commence by wishing everyone a Happy New Year.
But, for far too many in our midst, 2014 has already been unduly harsh and portends to be even harsher.
The recent polar vortex has literally brought the Upper Midwest and Great Plains to a virtual halt, forcing responsible governors to declare formal state of emergencies in their respective states.
This bitterly cold weather has brought another reality into light … the multitude of people who are struggling to survive.
It’s most unfortunate how quick we, as a nation, have become increasingly desensitized to the human suffering that we see all around us.
If you believe the hype, things are improving at least on one front. Despite a deep recession and a slow, fitful jobs recovery, one key indicator of the nation’s economic well-being has quietly improved nearly every year since 2005: homelessness.
The number has dropped 17 percent in that span: An estimated 129,000 fewer Americans were homeless in 2012 than in 2005, even after a mortgage crisis kicked thousands out of their homes.
Since 2009 alone, the number of homeless military veterans has dropped 17 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) says it is on track to ending homelessness for veterans by 2015.
But, these rosy government statistics belie the real truth.
There are well over 600,000 Americans without a roof over their heads.
And regrettably, far too many of these individuals are children.
During this recent arctic blast, homeless shelters have been overrun by people needing food and shelter from the elements.
And, many official buildings are now the daytime haunt of countless displaced individuals, who have been reduced to taking birdbaths in public restrooms.
There’s something tragically wrong with this picture.
True enough, we, as individuals, have a responsibility to each other as keepers for our brothers and sisters.
But, government also has an even greater responsibility for those who are unable to do for themselves.
This is a solemn responsibility that it must either meet or try to exceed.
Anything less is an absolute disgrace — like the existence of homelessness, lack of health care and hunger in this land of plenty.