Reflective essay on Rachel and Her Children
Jonathan Kozol is the author of Rachel and Her Children. He released this book at a time when homelessness in the US became a major concern of the public. In this book, Jonathan details the devastating effects of homelessness to children and their parents. In his book he suggests that children are the major culprits affected by the homelessness menace. Furthermore, these homeless children’s situation is supplemented by the fact that these children lose their homes in the event of major catastrophe. These homeless children in the long run indulge in street gangs that they hope to find comfort and solace and end up conducting criminal activities in order to be accepted. Some kids end up becoming mentally ill, drug addicts, alcoholics, and even thugs. Even though Jonathan does not convince the audience about the homelessness menace with figures and statistical data, he establishes very well the disposition and bad experiences of homelessness.
Jonathan focuses more on the New York housing and shelter system in his book. It is quite evident that in New York, the homeless population experience misery in their daily lives. The policy of deterrence seems to have caused most of their problems. This policy ascertains that through the making of relief and aid programs more difficult to access, the needy will be forced to work hard and find their own means of living (Kozol 21). This process has, however, been detrimental to these families instead of helping solve their problems. In New York, the families affected try to avoid the shelter system at all costs. They do this through their efforts of doubling up at their relatives and friends’ homes. The pressure on the existing resources at these homes is, however, exhausted and their continuous accommodation only does more harm than good. In their desperation to find shelter and food, they seek various agencies that they assume will help them in their quest. They seek aid at the Income Maintenance Center but to no avail. In their desperation, they are referred to the Emergency Assistance Unit, who like the former agency, only refers them to more and more agencies. Very few are assigned to spend nights in hostels or the army barracks. The rest of the homeless people, due to desperation, go to find shelter in the streets such as underground tunnels and abandoned places where no one will bother chasing them away.
Some parents and children, however, return back to these agencies to continually pressure them for aid and the continuation of the benefits received. To their disappointment, most of them are usually offered other temporary residence in hotels (Kozol 28). These temporary assigning of shelter does not end in a short period even though these agencies at times promise them permanent shelters. As these assignations continue for long periods, families tend to become entangled in the convolutions of the New York shelter system. Some of the employed parents even end up losingtheir personal jobs due to the continuous cycle of assignments that take up most of their time meant for working. Jonathan also indicates some cases involving ill infants, as well as pregnant women that have been allocated unsafe shelter places and in some instances denied shelter. This denial of shelter is evidently a direct violation of the US state regulations and laws.
Families are eventually sent to a one month catered hotel instead of permanent homes. The worse off families are usually sent to long term hotels in which a lot of bad and illegal activities tend to take place. An example of this hotel is the Martinique.in most cases, the tenants that live in these hostels are overcrowded into depressing and miserable, bugs-infested rooms. Activities such as prostitution, alcoholism, and the use of drugs among others are usually common. In addition to enduring these worse living conditions, the families must also put up with bad and destructive regulations that govern them. Families often chase out their fathers and discourage them from living with them. Even though some fathers hold temporary jobs that earn some amount of income and other benefits like medical insurance policies, including his family into the budget would risk the welfare payments. Due to the fear of loss of these welfare payments for the family, the father is regarded as a fiscal liability and chased away. This situation results to some fathers sneaking in into hotels as strangers in order to visit their wives and children. The situation by which tenants have to carry along their children or entrust them to their next of kin usually forces them to search for housing. These housing facilities are coupled with severe shortage of units. The monthly rent for these housing facilities tends to exceed the provided low welfare limit as landlords take advantage of their situation (Kozol 35).
There are numerous effects of homelessness under which Jonathan talks about in his book. One of them is the formation of oppressive regulations that affects the fair provision for food and related items. For example, the tenants that live in the Martinique hotel in one time are denied bringing any refrigerators into their rooms, and even cooking their own meal. Owing to the fact that their food-stamps allowances and their restaurant allocation allowances are not substantial, they are restricted to certain basic activities. They end up economizing their incomes and in such cases, start begging for food in these hotels. The irrationality of policy that is applied when giving out these homes is depicted when thesehotels meant to help them start over usually results into a form of refugee camp, and in most cases the result is permanent. This situation has long term consequences to both the families, as well as the accommodative hotels. Kozol suggests that the long term effect results to the springing out of a generation of little kids that are malnourished, lack education, distorted, and highly vulnerable to diseases. These are the same kids that add to the unemployment rate increase in their adulthood because the nation is usually lazy in intervening into these situations.
Another result of the conditions surrounding these families is poverty. Since most parents cannot provide for their basic needs to the families, their children tend to indulge in criminal activities in order to make a little extra income. Since there are no decent jobs in the streets, these children indulge in selling of drugs and prostitution to make money. Owing to the harsh conditions in the streets when participating in these activities, some kids end up dying or being infected with diseases such as sexually transmitted diseases. In the quest of trying to do good for their families, they end up doing more harm in the long run.
In an article that was published ten years ago; “A decade of homelessness: Thousands in S.F. remain in crisis”, San Francisco had launched a program in an effort to reduce homelessness in their state. This program aimed at moving the homeless people that are seriously sick into homes, clearing the streets, and removing emergency shelters by providing for permanent homes. This program is, however, a total failure, ten years from now as the city failed terribly in moving homeless families off the streets. Even though the state allocated about 1.5 billion dollars to move the homeless people off the streets, they have only succeeded in moving about 20,000 of the affected group. The program is still ineffective because as one homeless family or person is moved out from the street, two or more pop up wishing to benefit from the program too. In a bid to end the homelessness menace, the city has diverted its resources from helping these people to creating employment opportunities that will enable them work and earn a living. This situation will in turn, allow them to receive an income that they will use to help themselves and come out of the streets. They, however, did not do away with the housing strategy completely. They still reserved it for minors and the children that were unable to work for a living. Their plan was to provide permanent homes first to these kids before addressing major challenges they faced such as prostitution, drug abuse, alcoholism, and mental illness. Another tied up plan that supplemented the housing strategy was the introduction of clinics and rehabilitation centers that would help them reform their lives. In as much as this program has been functioning for the last ten years, the program is not perfectly effective owing to the large number of homeless people and less resources.
- Kozol, Jonathan. Rachel and Her Children: Homeless Families in America. New York: Crown Publishers, 1988.