This comment in a recent article on Detroit schools leaped out at me:
Last month, Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) school superintendent Nikolai Vitti noted that at least 10 percent of Detroit students are homeless—putting Detroit on par with New York City. Of the nation’s 1.3 million homeless public school students, New York has the highest percentage, according to the 2014-15 national database.
Ten percent. Perhaps this is not surprising for Detroit, which has received the full fire-hose enema treatment of capitalist economic rationality. Corporations have fled this once prosperous city, seeking lower wages elsewhere. City bankruptcy has devastated services, wages, and pensions. “Block after block of burned out and foreclosed-upon homes testify to the social crime visited upon the biggest poor city in America by bondholders, wealthy investors and the banks.”
But there are just as many homeless schoolchildren in New York City, and 1.3 million across the nation. Recently I read that Nashville, Tennessee has the world’s first Girl Scout troop for homeless children.
The article goes on to quote a long-time Detroit teacher:
There are a lot of homeless children. They are squatting in abandoned homes. I tell the cafeteria workers, ‘Please don’t throw away extra food.’ I get this food, bag it up and take it to my classroom. When I see one of these kids—you can tell who they are because they stink—I tell them to take some of this food home to their family.
I also give my children food while they work on projects. It helps their behavior and plus they just need to eat. A lot of times their water is cut off and they can’t wash their clothes. We would sometimes get their clothes and wash them in the school washing machines for them.
It bothers me to think about these kids living in abandoned houses. Yes, they are absent. But when school is cancelled, like it is today for snow, kids will come to school anyway to see if they can eat.
Homelessness so bad the children stink.
From my own school days in a poor neighborhood, long ago, I can remember a single case like this. In my sixth grade class there was a boy who smelled like a toilet. He was clearly neglected, shabbily dressed, unwashed, with uncombed hair. His smell was so overpowering the teacher had to seat him at a distance from everyone else. The boy was passive with a chronic hangdog, apologetic expression. The teachers were sympathetic, and I believe they gave him extra food at lunch. But apparently there was nothing much they could do about his situation.
This is still true today, so it seems. The only solution is political: overthrow capitalism!
- Nancy Hanover, Record numbers of Detroit children chronically absent from school, 19 Dec 2017, http://www.wsws.org.