THE HIDDEN FACE OF DISPLACEMENT
The reality of displacement is a known tragedy around the world. In almost every city there are signs or indicators of displacement. The scruffy looking man or woman standing on the corner with a sign that reads, “twenty-five cents will help” or the misplaced grocery cart and cardboard boxes under an overpass or long lines formed outside the local YMCA or Salvation Army are all too familiar signs of displacement. Not to mention the millions of people who are displaced because of disaster.
However, there is a new form of displacement emerging across various school districts in America. It is not as conspicuous as the traditional form of displacement. It seems somewhat clandestine… yet ever present. Children of parents who are economically displaced are forced to live in motels for shelter, hence the name “motel-kids”.
The parents of these children cannot afford any rent or are unable to mass the cost to move into a home or apartment, (i.e., rent plus deposit, and other related moving expenses) while trying to maintain the cost of shelter in a motel.
This situation is exacerbated by inadequate space for displaced people within certain municipalities, as well as the complete rejection and failure to acknowledge the problem in particular areas. Denying the existence of displacement translates into the absence of adequate provisions to address the issue.
Subsequently, single parents with few alternatives live in motels with their children. In some instances, cities will offer vouchers to help pay for room and board at certain motels. However, in an effort to disguise the existence of homelessness within city limits, families are given vouchers for motels outside of the school district and other necessary entities.
While this appears to be a resolution to living on the street or under a bridge, the living arrangement negatively impacts school age children academically. Typically, these families rely on public transportation to move around the cities they live. Parents are forced board and ride public transportation with their young children approximately three hours before school starts in order to get their children to school on time.
A 3-hour trip to school, 3-hour hours back to the motel, and 3-hours back to pick up the kid from school, leaves the parent very little time and opportunity to seek adequate employment and thereby change their situation. These children are subjected to prolonged transport that robs them of normal after school activities. Fatigue is also an issue that is manifest academically.
These families have limited food supply as well. In too many cases among them, the only meal the child receives is that which is offered at lunch time during the school day. Snack time and lunch becomes one of the highlights of the child’s day.
We believe that displacement and hunger should never become a deterrent to a child’s academic access, performance and success. CDDS collaborates with school districts, entities and other organizations to mitigate issues and challenges facing motel-kids. The initiative begins in Denver-Aurora, Colorado and will advance nationally per adequate resources.