homelessness in the oc

Last night I watched a documentary on HBO about homeless children in Orange County, California. Sad and heartbreaking don’t even begin to describe the children and families featured.

There was one family that had four children ages, 11, 9, 8 and 4-months. The wife worked the night shift at a hospital. The husband had recently lost his job, but he was able to watch the baby (he did the interview in his boxers and undershirt). They lived in a motel room that had a small kitchenette. The two boys shared the top bunk.

The one positive note was a year-round school that was specifically set up to serve homeless children in grade school. They provided transportation to and from school as well as books and supplies. They also provided food, but as one teacher pointed out, it wasn’t exactly the healthiest – she admitted she wouldn’t eat it.

The school was set up to provide a safe place for these children. It gave them something to do aside from play in the motel parking lot. And since everyone was in the same boat, so to speak, there was no making fun of kids who wore the same clothes for 30-days straight. If a family moved to a new location, transportation could be adjusted accordingly. But when a girl gets sick in the middle of the day, she is forced to wait until the bus can drop her off after school ends. Her father doesn’t have gas money to pick her up.

Another family consisted of four children and a widowed mother. They had several little dogs living with them in their tiny motel room. Although the mother was trained as a nurse, she was working in the parking department at Disneyland.

Yes, did I mention that many of these families lived in motels walking distance to the Happiest Place on Earth? And while there may be lots of family fun there, the surrounding area is void of parks and playgrounds.

I will give two of the boys credit though. Each night they walked over to the parking structure at Disneyland, and watched the fireworks from the roof. People were walking back to their cars, oblivious that two homeless kids were sitting here.

By the end, there was little improvement in the lives of these children. The family with the newborn had hoped to move in with a relative, but it was unclear if that would happen. The widowed mother was forced to leave the motel. And the school lost some of its funding, so let go of several staff members, including the teacher that was interviewed.

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