[box]by State Rep. Dave Yaccarino[/box]
Homelessness and hunger are struggles our society deals with every day. While many of us are fortunate to never experience this reality, it is far too convenient to forget those who do. Out of sight, out of mind is an inadequate solution to these problems. The truth is, these issues continue to face our community – and in certain situations the problem has increased over the years.
I couldn’t help but feel compelled to action after speaking to the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness (CCEH) at the Capitol in Hartford, as State Representative for North Haven and the 87th District. The CCEH in partnership with members of the community work to prevent and end homelessness in Connecticut.
I spent a lot of my childhood in New Haven visiting my grandmother and playing in city parks in various impoverished parts of New Haven. While marching in New Haven during the St. Patrick’s Day parade, it saddened me to see that these very same areas along with many others were just as abandoned and neglected as they were before. My experience along with recent statistical findings shows that hunger in America is on the increase in states across the map. In 2012, 8.3 million children lived in food-insecure households, along with 49 million people overall (Governing, March 2014). Although many of us have seen our economic situation improve over the years; poverty has remained a persistent, often silent struggle.
These problems persist despite enormous undertakings by the government and nonprofits. Despite this influx of programs and financial resources to aid the fight against poverty, hunger and homelessness; we continue to remain stagnant.
Even with an array of resources, laws and devoted organizations working to solve our poverty crisis, I can’t help but ask myself if we are creating more damage by not addressing the root cause of the problem. Oftentimes I feel that some of the laws we pass are not achieving their goal. We still have too many people living in poverty and too many hungry children.
How can we stop it?
The most important tool in our arsenal to stem the tide of poverty, homelessness and hunger is education. A strong fundamental education leads to good paying jobs. Enhancing childhood education is done by: employing our best teachers, having a strong curriculum, and supporting teachers with continuous, quality professional development. By doing this, we will give children the resources to develop their intellect at an early age and empower teachers with the tools to give back to our children. This will create the most long-term good for our children as well as society.
Another obstacle to educating our young children is hunger. Not only does a hungry child have difficulty learning, the very existence of this problem is simply immoral. In my opinion, we need an honest and unbiased effort to put more resources into the fight against hunger. I am making a pledge to do my best to fight against it and I urge you all to join me. Let’s unite and together fight homelessness, poverty and hunger; all of which have continued even after President Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty over fifty years ago.
While many changes need to happen at the federal level to achieve our goals, I feel there is much we can accomplish in Connecticut, provided we take bipartisan action. We need laws and programs that enhances a strong coordination between the school system and the work force. It is unacceptable for any child to go to school or to sleep hungry. We need to coordinate and create more tailored laws, while also working with local nonprofits and food assistance groups to generate proper resources. It is essential that teachers have a seat at the negotiating table when these programs are formulated. Lastly, it is imperative that we encourage greater family involvement in making these goals happen. By doing the aforementioned, we ensure that children from low income families have access to breakfast, lunch and dinner – even in the summer months.
Ending poverty is a difficult task, but the most important first step is to prevent children from experiencing the effects of homelessness, poverty and hunger. By ensuring that our children are taken care of, have access to the essentials of daily meals and the best education available, we can make strides towards breaking the cycle of poverty for all our children.
John F. Kennedy once said, “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” We should all work together to guarantee that more is done to support children in need. We can’t just talk about this; we need to do something about it. Let’s use our resources to provide them with the opportunities that many of us take for granted.