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He Was Only in Second Grade, but Homeless
My Son's Best Friend Was Homeless
My oldest son was in second grade, and he asked me all the time if his best friend could come home with him after school, so that they could have a snack, and do homework together.
The behaved very well together, and I didn't mind so I told him it was OK. When this continued to go on every single day, and my son was never invited to his house, I inquired as to why one day, after his little friend had left.
He told me, "Mom, he can't invite me to his house, he doesn't have one!"
I was stunned. He didn't have a home? After school the next day, I asked the boy myself, trying to ask him in a way that he would not become embarrassed. He told me that he, his little baby brother, his mom, and her boyfriend all lived in a camper, and they had ever since he could remember.
This bothered me tremendously. I had the boys introduce me to his mom the next day, and she was somewhat distressed, and depressed about the situation. It wasn't because of laziness. His mom worked part time, mostly because the baby was only eight months old, and the boyfriend worked full time, but at a job that was dictated by the weather. If it was raining, or if there were winds blowing, he could not work. So they did the best they could, but she was concerned about it affecting her son, for I guess he had been coming home to his house, after spending several hours at mine, and he wanted to be able to have friends over, and he wanted to have some room to himself. She felt guilty about it, but didn't know what to do.
I told her to come over so we could talk about it, and she did. She told me that they got arrested for illegal camping occasionally, which was traumatic on the children. She also was feeling very guilty about not being able to provide this for her son.
There had to be something we could do.
We Contacted the Coalition for the Homeless
I could not believe that the police were actually taking these parents to jail for parking in a beach parking lot at night.
That is exactly what was happening. The parents were going to jail, and the children were going to foster care until the adults were out and could go and get them. This was having awful emotional effects on the oldest child, who was now asking me from time to time if he could move in with us.
I had an idea, and Mom was glad to go to work on it with me. At least this way she felt as if she was trying to do something about their horrible problem. We put our heads together, and with the help of a couple of social workers, found an organization called The Coalition For The Homeless. We contacted them and told them what was going on. This indeed was not fair, they agreed, and together with them we came up with a killer plan.
Our city, Santa Barbara, has what they call the Fiesta Days every year. It starts on the first of Augest, and goes on for two weeks. They have a parade, they close off streets and put up booths with food, and so on. Tourists come from miles and miles around to celebrate it with us, and this was the time we would strike.
The Coalition told us that they would make all the arrangements from then on, that we should just watch and see what happens. That is exactly what we did.
Could Only One Person do Anything?
The first of August came, and they had their parade, and after the parade, and the crowds were starting to disperse, I noticed that there were quite a few tents going up all over town in all the parks. This happened a little, and I figured it was because of the parade crowd.
The next thing I saw happening surprised me. The city police were coming and arresting all the tent people from the parks. They hauled them all off to jail. As soon as the cars left to take them to be incarcerated, more people replaced them, filling every single park, and now the beaches with tents.
I couldn't believe my eyes. The city police showed up, but before the sun set, the jail was full of illegal campers, and so were the parks and beaches. The Coalition had called to the homeless from all over the USA, asking their help and arrive they did. They would not stop they told the city leaders, until the city of Santa Barbara gave the homeless people there some legal places they could park and put up tents without being hassled by the police.
It worked. The city designated several parks, and several beach parking lots as legal for the homeless to use overnight. My son and his friend still did homework at my house, and on a weekend or two a month he would spend the night, but the parents never again got arrested for being poor, and that is what it amounted to. They did not have enough cash to live in a house, and it took them a couple of years before they were able to.
I felt like I had beat the system. It was a victory for the little guy for sure. So if anyone ever asks you what can one person do? Let them read this.....