Above is my “self-portrait” made with the help of a 6-year-old at the DrawBridge group where I used to volunteer. Here’s a quote from another DrawBridge kid about one of the most popular projects we did - building house sculptures:
"There was this kid who saw the house and he was shocked because it was the most beautiful house that he had ever seen in his whole entire life. He went inside and it looked like a candy house. The TV was pure chocolate, the chairs were pure vanilla, the water was chocolate and vanilla. There was another living room but it was not sweets. It was a big humungous chicken and the furniture was mashed potatoes. There were lima beans for the channel turners and there were vegetables all over.
"He got a bunch of food and went out of the house and told his friends. One night when they were going to go back, the house was gone because it had been eaten by a whole bunch of other people. The day after yesterday they went to the house and the house was back. It had candy and good food. They said, ‘How did this happen?’ Then they wanted to show the house to their parents. The parents were very angry and they said this house belongs to the state. The parents said, ‘Look at that sign!’ and they had to pay $5,000 because they had eaten all the house. The kids got grounded for a month."
~ Sarah, age 10
If you have any disposable income, you should consider donating to DrawBridge: An Arts Program for Homeless Children. DrawBridge volunteers go into shelters all over the Bay Area bringing art supplies and projects for kids who don’t get many other opportunities for creative expression in between worrying about having a place to live and enough food to eat. It’s a great program that serves a ton of kids with a very small budget. There’s a lot more info about what the program is and its goals on the website, but I just want to share a few sobering facts pulled from there:
“The average age of a homeless person in the United States is 9 years old.”
~ The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
“1.3 million runaway and homeless youth in the United States.”
~ National Runaway Switchboard
“Of the 3.5 million people who are homeless in the US, 39% (1.35 million) of which are children.”
~ Urban Institute 2000/National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, 2004
“Over the course of a year, between 2.3 and 3.5 million people experience homelessness nationwide.”
“Children experiencing homelessness often feel like outsiders and have difficulty maintaining friendships due to frequent moves. Their lives feel out of control and they often experience anxiety and depression as a result.
“42% of children and youth experiencing homelessness are below the age of 5.”
~ US Department of Education Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
“Families with children constitute approximately 40% of people who become homeless.”
~ National Coalition for the Homeless: Washington, DC
97% of homeless children move up to three times a year.
40% of homeless children do not attend school, and the ones that do average 4 schools a year.
85% of homeless families are headed by a young, single mother with two children under the age of 6. Her average annual income is $8,000.
An estimated 350,000 people in California are homeless.
4.6 million Californians live in poverty.
It is estimated that almost half of the children in shelters are under the age of five.
~ Homes for the Homelessness: New York, 1998
In California, an estimated 220,000 youth under the age of 19 are homeless each year.
~ California Department of Education, 1999
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