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article imageNew York Times Expose Highlight Growing Problem

By Jenna Cyprus     Dec 13, 2013 in Lifestyle
This article discusses the story of Dasani, a girl who the New York Times covered in a recent issue. The article also discusses how best to help the homeless in the holiday season.
On December 9, 2013, the New York Times featured a lengthy expose on homeless youth in the city, but their stories are restricted to urban children--Dasani, the child featured, could be anyone. She could be your child's classmate, the same child you see day after day near the gym on your way to your lunch yoga classes, or she could even be your child. Taking a narrative approach, the expose is heartbreaking and heart warming at the same time. It shows homelessness in a way that few other media outlets achieve: By tapping into the common thread that we all share.
For many, "homeless" looks a certain way. We often picture the people we see sleeping on the street, and most of the time those people aren't young children. However, "homeless" by definition is any person who doesn't have a permanent home. They might be crashing with friends, taking up a week-long stay in a relative's basement, or hopping from one transitional housing unit to another. Dasani's family don't live on the streets, but the conditions they call home are more reminiscent of a third world country's poorest inhabitants.
Understanding homeless
Dasani lives with her parents and siblings, and she's the oldest of the children. She has views of the Empire State Building from where the family is staying right now, and it provides motivation for the girl who was first born, first to attend school and the first in her family to make the honor roll. She was named after the Coca-Cola bottled water, which became popular days before she was born and reminded her mother of a luxury she couldn't afford.
Technically, Dasani lives in the Auburn Family Residence, which is a shelter in Fort Greene. It's filled with roaches, mold, vomit and feces--sexual predators live here, along with 280 children. However, it's still better than living on the streets of New York, where 22,000 children do and those numbers haven't been so high since the Great Depression. At the shelter, Dasani shares 520 square feet with seven siblings and her parents and she takes on the role of caretaker, changing diapers and feeding her younger siblings before leaving for school.
No child left behind?
"Long before Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio rose to power by denouncing the city's inequality, children like Dasani were being pushed further into the margins, and not just in New York. Cities across the nation have become flash points of polarization, as one population has bounced back from the recession while another continues to struggle--one in five American children is now living in poverty, giving the United States the highest child poverty rate of any developed nation except Romania," reveals the expose.
While the facts can't be ignored and organizations like NY Foundling are providing immeasurable assistance to families and children in need, those in the margins keep slipping more and more behind. Even the most determined of children like Dasani don't stand a fair chance against statistics which show what happens to those growing up in poverty--less education, less earning power, more drug addiction issues, psychological trauma, disease and odds of ending up in prison are at their front door.
Steps to take
Spreading the facts and education is what it's going to take to allow children like Dasani to beat the odds. Her parents can't find jobs, and as rents have continued to climb skyward in New York (and around the country), the low-income wages stayed the same. She's on the verge of being put into foster care. The expose has revealed one of the many faces of childhood homelessness and poverty, and it's a step in the right direction, but it's going to take much more to tackle the societal disease that's nearly out of control.
More about Homelessness, NYC, homeless children, New York Times
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