This blog is still on hiatus, but I wanted to file this report, given the posturing during the election season about how big government is doing too much for the poor that they could do for themselves.
For example, I heard on MPR from a woman who said health care isn't a right any more than it's a right to own a Mercedes or a BMW. The poor should just suck it up and drive their Fords and eat hot dogs instead ofdriving Beemers and eating steak.
As if access to health care were not a question, but just a matter of selecting a level of status and comfort. She clearly has no idea what life is like when a car of any model is not an option, and the choice isn't eating a hot dog instead of a steak. It's skipping meals entirely in order to pay for health care.
The preschool where I volunteer is run by a non-profit that receives significant funding and services from Hennepin County. It's a pretty good model for how government and the charitable sector can collaborate to help address homelessness in our community.
The kids have come to the shelter because, for one reason or another, their families have lost their housing. For many of them, the stress of moving from one place to another has been a prominent feature in their young lives.
When I talked to a girl we'll call Shante about how I rode my bike in to see her today, she told me she had a bike, too: "It's in storage."
Today, the kids had a lesson about being afraid and how to deal with their fears. The teacher used a puppet named Mousie to talk to them about it.
When she brought out Mousie, she asked, "Do you know who this is?"
One boy correctly answered, "It's a rat."
Mousie has a long, hairless tail and the body of a rat. I don't know how this four-year-old knew Mousie was actually a rat, but I doubt he learned it from a book.
Mousie got scared when the kids talked too loudly or growled to scare her. She trembled and chewed her tail. The teacher asked if the children were ever afraid and trembled like Mousie.
Some of the kids said they had. Others — all boys — said they weren't ever afraid. These unafraid kids exhibited the most problems dealing with frustration, acting appropriately, responding to teacher requests, etc.
I'm not sure what anti-big-government and anti-welfare folks have in mind when they preach private sector-solutions and personal responsibility. But I don't think the kids in my homeless shelter preschool class are anywhere near their radar.