Most young adults who make it to the University have never known what it is like to spend a night without shelter. The reality of sleeping on cold concrete or huddling under a bridge to keep warm is harsh even for those who had rough childhoods. As removed as University students might be from the plight of more than 600 children who find themselves homeless each night in Minnesota, much must be done on our part to keep each child off the street, if even for only one night. Whether they are parents or not, Minnesotans have an obligation to the children of this state and must ensure they receive proper care and education.
The Wilder Research Center has been conducting extensive research on homelessness in Minnesota, and its recent report says the most common reason children leave their homes is conflict with parents. Parents in Minnesota must realize that having a child is the largest responsibility of all and that they are personally responsible for the well being of the child regardless of his or her behavior or misconduct. Parents need to be aware of the dangers of homelessness: increased risk of pregnancy, lack of medical attention, increased drug use, risk of sexual abuse and little or no education. It is absolutely deplorable of parents to push away their children to the point where they feel it would be better to live alone on the streets.
Fortunately, organizations such as the Wilder Foundation are doing much to increase homelessness awareness. American society continuously refuses to accept the fact that children do live in homelessness and poverty in this country. Nothing can be done to solve the problem if people believe none exists. Americans see, scattered throughout the media, images of starving children in third world nations, but fail to recognize the homeless children in their own neighborhoods. Only after awareness grows can homeless children get the help they desperately need and deserve.
Each day the homeless youth of Minnesota go without assistance decreases their chance of getting an adequate education, which is necessary to end the cycle of poverty and homelessness of which they are a part. This is where the citizens of Minnesota can help. By volunteering at a school, shelter or program designed to get homeless youths back on track, Minnesotans can end the cycle of poverty that children face and encourage them to learn. An early education will help build the foundation of skills and motivation necessary to succeed later in life. Volunteering will not only facilitate learning and stability, but it will also show children that an adult cares and wants to help them live a better life.