Coalition on Temporary Shelter

Est. in 1981, COTS helps break the cycle of homlesness

"An Open Letter to Santa" by Pat LaMarche

Pat LaMarche wrote this piece in 2011 to back the homeless children testifying before the House Finance Subcommittee, asking them to support HR 32, a bill that would expand the definition of homeless to include children.

"Dear Santa,

I watched a movie last night about you. It starred Will Farrell and it's called Elf. You may have seen it, and considering Ed Asner did such a great job playing you, I imagine they ran the important parts by you for your approval. So you likely already know that there ends up being a problem with your sleigh because while it's powered by Holiday Cheer, there isn't enough of it anymore to keep you and your toy transport aloft.

I must admit I had no idea that good will and blind faith were "lifting" your craft. I guess I thought those reindeer were strong enough to pull you through anything. At any rate, I'm writing to tell you that those of us who saw that movie won't be expecting you this year. After all, if you travel the globe bringing joy to young people everywhere because of the faith and love of others: you're going to be completely out of theoretical thrust this year.

Santa, do you watch CNN? If you do then you don't need to read any further. You already know about the homeless children who went to Washington D.C. Thursday and testified before the House Finance Sub-Committee asking them to support HR 32, The Homeless Child and Youth Act of 2011. That's the bill that expands the definition of homelessness to include -- well, quite frankly your favorite people -- children.

Oh sure, anyone who has visited the National Coalition for the Homeless website knows that the average homeless person is nine years old, has changed schools at least twice this year, and was likely made homeless as a result of domestic violence.

And nobody's got to tell you, Santa, that there are a million or more kids without homes. Not just kids without chimneys for you to drop down, but no house, nothing, nadda. Admit it Santa, you've had a devil of a time visiting the cars, storage compartments, and flea bag hotels where they live. But don't tell me you're not annoyed that these kids are often uncounted when HUD and other governmental entities do their official counts. And you know Santa that this keeps their numbers artificially low and reduces the mandate on Congress -- and the American people --- to actually do something substantive about it.

But because of these numbers games caused by restricting the definition of homelessness, the American people don't really get the point that the average homeless person is a child. The average American can swallow the dead beat language used by politicos like Newt Gingrich when referring to the poor and never really understand that hard-working homeless people don't speak out because the kids and their parents hope to stay under the radar. Otherwise, without an expanded definition of homelessness they're afraid that when they're found out they'll get in trouble and separated from each other just because they're too poor to have a home.

Santa, watch the CNN clip of these kids bravely -- so bravely -- outing themselves to their communities in the hope that their lives and the lives of other homeless people will improve.

Imagine the chance those youngsters took by admitting that they have nowhere to live, that their parents struggle daily to help them get their homework done, to give them a decent meal, to keep them in school with their friends even though they've lost their home in that community. Imagine the chance they took -- especially the ones testifying who are afraid their abuser who cost them their home is out there watching.

And then Santa, look at the members of Congress who voted to extend the tax cuts to the rich indefinitely regardless of how badly these kids are hurting -- regardless of how badly they need Congressional support while they were only willing to help the middle class for two months. Think of the multi-millionaires getting another Christmas gift while the homeless kids are too tired, too overcrowded or isolated, too busy lying to their teachers at school about where they live, too busy babysitting their younger siblings while their parents work underpaying jobs, to even care if they're on your list at all.

Lastly Santa, when you visit the comfortable homes of U.S. Congressman, Republican presidential candidates and news commentators, remind them that all these kids want for Christmas is economic justice -- that's why they risked everything to testify before the House Finance Sub-Committee. And if these big wigs can't supply justice to your favorite people they aren't just the reason your sleigh won't fly. They're the reason you don't exist at all."

Pan Handleing

COTS’ Recommendations for Responding to Panhandlers

1. Never give cash to a homeless person.

If you feel inclined to help, purchase needed staples such as food and beverage for them or make a gift to a reputable agency like COTS.

2. Speak to the person with respect.

Taking time to talk to a homeless person in a friendly, respectful manner can give them an encouraging sense of civility and dignity.

3. Take precautions for your own safety.

Always be prudent when engaging with panhandlers. Stay in areas where other people can see you.

4. Encourage panhandlers to get help through local agencies.

COTS and many other agencies offer food, clothing, shelter in conjunction with other supportive services and referrals to the homeless. These supportive services aim to address the root causes of homeless and aid in the rehabilitation and rebuilding of lives.

Works Cited

"Charity Directory." Charity Navigator. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.

"Coalition On Temporary Shelter." Coalition On Temporary Shelter. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.

LaMarche, Pat. "An Open Letter to Santa." The Huffington Post., 18 Dec. 2011. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.

"Homelessness Statistics Industry Figures, and Information -"Homelessness Statistics Industry Figures, and Information - N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.