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Friday, January 07, 2011

Not to sound like a grump, but...
Posted by Jill | 6:28 AM
The story of the you-can't-make-this-up-named Ted Williams, the homeless man with the golden pipes who has in just a few days gone from the street to media darlinghood, is a lovely one. But the insanity surrounding the multiple offers and the relentless media self-congratulation on giving a hidden gem the exposure warranted by a media that loves a resonant voice disguises the larger problem of homelessness in this country.

Mr. Williams, for all his golden voice, has a backstory that fits what most people think about homeless people -- the Fall of the Substance Abuser. If not for his resonant voice, Mr. Williams would be regarded by the very same people who now want to hire him as part of the vast pool of "undeserving poor and homeless." Even as Mr. Williams begins his new live, one with which everyone wishes him success, there are homeless people everywhere that no one wants to hire, to give a home, to help.

As the Dallas Morning News reports, the new face of the homeless is families:
First, they stayed with family. Then, they rented a trailer. Finally, they went to a shelter.

Katrina Stephens, Alan Charles Walker and their three young children became homeless after Walker's construction work dried up.

Now, the family lives in a modest East Dallas apartment as part of Family Gateway's transitional housing program. Stephens plans to finish school to become a medical assistant this spring.

About 80,000 families – typically a single woman with young children – are homeless on any given night, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Families are the fastest-growing homeless population, according to Family Gateway and other local agencies.

More than 170,000 families nationwide stayed at shelters or in transitional housing programs in 2009, up 30 percent from 2007, according to HUD. Those families included 300,000 children younger than 18.

Estimates of the number of homeless families vary.

The National Center on Family Homelessness in Needham, Mass., estimates that 1.5 million children experience homelessness in a year. The center includes children who are "doubled up," living with relatives or friends because of economic hardship.

And in Dallas County, the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA), which coordinates local homeless programs, found that 1,275 people in 422 families were homeless on the night of its annual census in 2010.

On the December 26 edition of This Week, Bob Woodruff did a segment on homeless Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans:

No one is offering these people jobs in media. No one is offering these people who have served their country anything. Republican politicians regard people who still have roofs over their heads but have been laid off as lazy and shiftless and greedy. What do they make of homeless veterans? When was the last time you heard ANY Washington politician talk about the plight of homeless veterans and families?

So yes, let's get the warm fuzzies about Ted Williams' change in fortunes. But instead of self-congratulation, I hope this will re-open the discussion of homelessness in America, and help people realize that every homeless person has a backstory -- and deserves another chance.

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Blogger Southern Beale said...
Yup. You and I had pretty much the same take on it.

I mean, I don't begrudge Ted Williams his good fortune but we're all feeling so good about ourselves right now, the media is practically oozing with self-congratulatory brio -- and meanwhile there are as many as 3 million other homeless folks who aren't so fortunate as to come to the corporate media's attention or have a skill that serves the capitalist state (like hawking Kraft mac'n'cheese.)

So yeah, it's kinda infuriating.