The rising tide of homeless women and children is putting ever more pressure on the Simon House, a Frankfort transitional facility that temporarily shelters mothers-to-be and mothers with children.
The State Journal’s Lauren Hallow wrote Sunday of the Simon House bursting at its seams. It has room for six women at a time but wants a new location capable of housing a dozen plus their children. A fundraising drive is underway.
Frankfort is not alone in taking up the cause of mothers who find themselves homeless because of domestic abuse, abandonment and economic destitution. The Chicago Tribune, citing statistics in a 2011 report from the National Center on Family Homelessness, said Monday that the rate of homelessness among children is the highest in U.S. history. One in 45 children, totaling 1.6 million, are without homes.
Most probably think of homelessness in terms of down-and-out men subsisting on handouts and living in makeshift shelters, and that’s not an entirely inaccurate perception. A 2007 survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors found 67.5 percent of the single homeless population is male. However, the survey also determined that 65 percent of the homeless who are members of households with children are women. The National Coalition for the Homeless said families with children are among the fastest-growing segments of homeless populations.
The widespread disintegration of the traditional family, coupled with permissive attitudes toward sexual promiscuity, undoubtedly has contributed to this trend. The plight of cast-off women and children has even become entertainment fodder for reality TV, which routinely conducts paternity tests on the multiple sex partners of women desperate to make feckless dads accept responsibility for child support. The on-air announcement of test results typically elicits raucous exultation on the part of men “cleared” by DNA evidence and an equally strong emotional outburst from women who manage to pin down who fathered their children – or who in some cases remain in the dark because none of those tested yielded positive readings, meaning the real father still hasn’t been identified. Some of the men whose fatherhood is established by DNA tests that claim to be more than 99 percent reliable solemnly vow to do the right thing afterwards. But there’s no guarantee that the promises will actually lead to long-term commitments backed up with action. Old-fashioned “shotgun weddings” didn’t always work out, either.
It should not be assumed that extramaritial relations are behind all or even most cases of abandonment. One mother at the Simon House told our reporter her estranged husband kicked her out after she gave birth to a fourth child. She lost her job and custody of the three older children and credits the Simon House with enabling her to keep her baby.
Simon House Executive Director Pam McCalla isn’t always able to produce happy endings. Because of limited space, she has to turn away many mothers and children, and eight women got the bad news in the first week of this month.
In a perfect world, stable family life would be the norm throughout America and places like the Simon House would no longer exist. In the real world, the urgency to rescue homeless mothers and kids is an implacable fact of life.