Friday, February 13, 2009

Bankrolling a worthy cause, sort of

“Tag - you're it.”

That’s the message my blogging buddy Ian sent me a couple of days ago, along with a directive to check his site for details. Little did I know that the topic would be (loosely) related the economic bailout. I'm now get to decide who gets the bankroll.

This financial rescue plan comes with a twist. It has to be for a worthy cause, and it is merely hypothetical. But I still have to come up with a proposal.

Does the scenario offer me the opportunity to give away billions? Noooooo. Instead, I have to be compassionate on a budget of $5,000. Five grand probably wouldn’t fill up the fuel tank of an automaker’s corporate jet. Nor would it begin to finance the movie that filmmaker Michael Moore wants to make. In case you missed it, Moore, who says the Wall Street bailout is “the biggest swindle in American history,” is asking bankers to help him make a movie proving it. Yeah, he really said that. Good luck, Michael!

Anyway, back to the task at hand – coming up with a bailout plan with redeeming social value. Lots of ideas swirled in my mind, but one stood out. It involves the helping the homeless.

A few days ago, the Washington Post reported that our nation’s schools are seeing a sharp rise in homelessness among students. The article’s first two sentences commanded my attention immediately.

The economic plunge has generated a growing wave of children nationwide who are sleeping in shelters, motels, spare bedrooms or even the family van as their parents seek to keep them in school. Educators are scrambling to help, with extra tutoring, clothes, food and cab fare.

There’s more, but the details are heartbreaking. According to the National Law Center on Homeless and Poverty, approximately 3.5 million people, more than one million of them children, are likely to experience homelessness in a given year.

My proposal, then, would be to use the $5,000 to adopt one family with children currently living in a shelter. Lots of homeless families have parents who work. Since we only have $5,000 to spend, let’s make sure the family has working adults. We want this effort to be successful and long-lasting.

The cash would go towards setting the family up in an apartment or house. It would be applied to rent payments and utilities for a period of time, along with purchases to cover basic needs (such as household items and food).

To make this proposal work, there needs to be collaboration involving a homeless shelter and local agencies that can offer additional resources. Perhaps a church would be willing to donate food and clothing. If we could find an individual or organization that would donate furniture that’s new or moderately used, that would leave more money to put directly into housing and utility payments. If the parents are underemployed, we’d engage an agency that offers job leads and employment counseling for an agreed upon period of time. A social worker could check on the family from time to time to make sure that they’re on their way to being financially independent.

The payoff would be huge, especially for the kids. Because the children would live in their own homes with their families, they’d once again be on track to lead normal lives. School-age kids could focus on their class work without the distractions that come with living in a shelter or other precarious situations. With some planning, students wouldn’t experience the academic and social disconnects associated with frequently changing schools.

I’m not a social worker, nor am I charged with working with the homeless. I’m sure there would be a myriad of logistics to work out. However, I think this plan is feasible. With collaboration, dedication and a well-thought-out plan, we could get a family back on its feet. The family’s return to economic independence would, of course, benefit the community. The $5,000 start-up and a little sweat would make it all worthwhile.

So how else could we implement a $5,000 bailout for the greater good? I believe Rose, Andre, and Ms. Cornelius could come up with several creative ideas. You're on, guys!

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Christina said...

many homeless families and children. These children who happen to make it to school, are expected to play well with others,be open minded and excel in academics. The thought of it is heartbreaking.

I must admit, these words are seriously thought provoking.

Thank you for sharing. : )

Deb S. said...

Christina: I know. There are so many homeless families with children - people who live in shelters or their vehicles when they're not at work or school. Imagine kids trying to keep their friends from finding out. Imagine trying to keep up with your "stuff" and staying on top of homework.

I've known a couple of working single moms who, because of unexpected circumstances, ended up in shelters. My hat is off to the people who work every day to serve this population and who give a voice to our "invisible" neighbors.

Andre said...

You really know how to put a brotha on blast Deb!

All the same, I'll bite. Give me a sec to do some thinking. I'll get back to you on this. :)

Deb S. said...

Andre: I have a lot of faith in you. I also took great joy in putting you on blast. ;-)
I look forward to your thoughts.

Ian Lidster said...

Brilliant, my love. I knew you would come up with something good, and you certainly didn't disappoint.I think the restoration of a little pride in such families could work wonders in getting them started on a positiive path. Maybe I'm an altruist, but I believe that.

Reading your words leaves me no doubt about my wisdom of having chosen you. But, I already knew that.

Deb S. said...

Ian: You've made me blush. I did enjoy this exercise, and I learned a few things from you along the way. If you're an altruist, then I'm one too.

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

I really love your idea! And you really did your homework!

Deb S. said...

Ms. Cornelius: Thank you. :-)