I heard an ad on the radio the other day asking people to donate to an organization that helps the homeless. I went to their website and found that I could pick a country in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Central America or South America—but not the United States. A country, rich as it is, that has widespread poverty and millions of families with children living below the poverty line.
The same day, Kate passed along an article to me. . . “Their children are, on average, poorer, less educated and have fewer prospects—an underclass in a wealthy and aging nation that can ill-afford to lose a substantial chunk of its future workforce.” We both thought they were describing the United States but, instead, the article was about Japan. And the author was making the point that Japan was worse off than the United States, giving the impression that the issues here in the U.S. aren’t that bad after all.
And, again on the same date, Trish passed along another article entitled Americans Love Families. American Policies Don’t. The article points out that, as a nation, we really don’t have family-friendly policies. While the fastest growing segment of low-income families are single parents (and, most often, single mothers), we have policies that can reduce benefits such as the earned-income tax credit and some Medicaid benefits if they marry. And a number of states provide health care for children but not their parents, even though studies have shown that providing better health coverage to parents leads to better outcomes for their children.
In Bergen County, a single parent with two children needs to earn $30 per hour to provide basic housing and other bare necessities. Yet we continue to tinker with raising the minimum wage, which is currently $8.60 per hour in NJ, to $15 per hour over an extended number of years.
We are in a serious political divide, but as far as families are concerned, this is not new. While evidence clearly shows the negative impact on society, we essentially ignore the “hidden” issue of family homelessness . . . we don’t see “it” every day, so there must not be a real issue. Wrong.
This is why Family Promise of Bergen County exists. To bring out from the shadows a population that desperately needs our attention. To provide a holistic array of support for working families with children who have become homeless. The answers are incredibly complicated, but the impact on the lives that are transformed demands the effort.
We will continue to provide support and plan to expand our programs and the number of families we serve. Because what we do assists not only those we help today, it leads to better lives for those families’ children . . . and their children’s children.
Paul R. Shackford
President of the Board of Trustees