Did you know tons of homeless kids live on the highway to Disney World?
How ironic is it that tons of homeless children live in the thousands of hotels/motels that line up Highway 92, one of the main arteries leading to The Happiest Place on Earth? I bet that, just like me, you had no idea this was going on. I took my daughter to Disney World last year and I can assure you that I had not even an inkling that in all those small hotels on the way to the theme parks there were kids whose parents are so destitute that all they can afford is a hotel room.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Education says that at least 2,000 children live in the hotels of Central Florida, where Disney World is located. And that number doesn't account for all the children who don't go to school yet, have dropped out or those who've fallen through the cracks.
What's more, at some local schools in Central Florida, it's not unusual to hear that out of the 22 kids in a class, 19 or 20 are homeless children living in a hotel room. While there are about 47,000 hotel kids in schools around the country, according to the U.S. Department of Education, I just find it super ironic that so many of them live just a few miles away from a place most people would least associate with homelessness, poverty, hunger and overall despair.
The saddest part is that those who advocate for homeless families leaving in hotels say that they are the new face of poverty in America. And yet, they're not considered homeless by the Department of Housing and Urban Development since they're not in shelters or on the streets and thus, they're not eligible for help.
How crazy is that? Especially considering that for many of these families the hotel room option is just a temporary arrangement? In other words, the hotel room is just one stop before the shelter or the streets. Fortunately, a new bill before Congress is trying to change that with something called the Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2011, which would expand the housing department's definition to include those living in hotel rooms.
Reading about stuff like this just serves as reminder to be grateful for all my own children have. I simply can't imagine having to live like this hotel kids.
Did you know about this? What do you think of the new bill?
Image via Wyscan/flickr