Let's help homeless kids not have a homeless future

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The Post-Gazette editorial "No Place to Call Home: Underpass Evictions Show the Plight of the Homeless" (July 8) addressed the humanitarian issues of evicting homeless adults from under our highways. The editorial called on us to discuss investing "responsibly in prevention measures ... that are known to work." Effective prevention measures are smart public policy and are most effective when started early in the lives of children.

Today there are hundreds of infants, toddlers and children who are homeless in Allegheny County. Picture a toddler with no place to call home, distraught because he witnessed his mother abused the night before. Picture a first-grader watching the clock at school, not knowing where she will sleep tonight. Will it be their car, a stranger's home, a shelter or the street?

These stresses and uncertainties can have adverse consequences on developing children. The foundation of a child's brain is framed in the early years of life. Well-constructed, it can weather future storms; otherwise it is ill-prepared to face life's challenges.

Prevention can be costly, but it is also cost-effective public policy. Allegheny County is rich with proven prevention services, such as the Nurse Family Partnership and Early Head Start, but homeless children are often not connected to them.

For the hundreds of homeless children who are often invisible to us, it is time to take the initiative to involve them in such services so these children are not future homeless adults and families being evicted from under our highways, but productive citizens.

RAY FIRTH
Policy Initiatives Director
Office of Child Development
University of Pittsburgh
North Point Breeze


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