Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Different Side of the Super Bowl

As all of you know, the Super Bowl is coming to Dallas. Well here’s a side to it that you never hear about….at least publically. My V.P. of Programs, Alex, was contacted this week by the Child Exploitation Unit of the Dallas Police Department for Promise House to be a shelter for under-age prostitutes that get picked up during the Super Bowl. I’ve been haunted thinking about this discussion and the numbers of prostitutes that will be brought in for the Super Bowl. Is this Las Vegas or something? Geez, I simply cannot get my head around this kind of blatant, slimy, behavior engaged in by so many people. The even more horrific thought is the number of under-age prostitutes, both girls and boys, who will brought in to be used and abused.

Promise House is no stranger to helping prostitutes, both under-age and young adults. Thankfully, not in the numbers that are projected to be dealt with during the Super Bowl, but still, the issues are the same. So many get caught up in it simply trying to survive, trying to get something to eat, have someplace to stay. Teens (both boys and girls) 18 and under on the street will be approached by a “pimp” within 48 hours of “arriving” on the street. Lost, hungry, and confused, they get lured in and the downward spiral begins. They are objectified, bought, sold, used and abused in horrific ways.

Thankfully, the Dallas Police Department is beginning to understand the fact that under-age prostitutes are victims, not criminals. Letot Center, the shelter run by the Juvenile Justice Department here in town, is doing some great work with these kids. Instead of being arrested, these kids are now brought to Letot for special programming and help. This is what we will be doing during the Super Bowl. We have no idea how many will come to Promise House, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

These kids are someone’s children. They had hopes and dreams. They didn’t say when they were little, “Gee, I think I want to be on the street and become a prostitute when I grow up.” They certainly didn’t say, “I’m looking forward to being bought and sold and used and abused when I grow up.” They’ve had their childhoods and youth snatched from them in the most traumatic way. Hopefully, while they are with us, we can give them back a little of that youth and some of their hopes and dreams. At the very least, we can offer them a warm bed, good food, clean clothes, a shower, and a listening ear…..all with no strings attached.

Wish us luck.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On Turning 60....

Thursday, January 6, I turned 60. Every time I say that, I have such cognitive dissonance that I think my brain will explode. Sixty,sixty, sixty. Maybe if I say it enough, it will no longer freak me out. I have outlived my mother and my older brother, Bill. Fortunately, however, not my father or my other sibs. My brother, Ross, is even more freaked out about my birthday than I; because it means he's NEXT!!

How can we be this old? It really is unfathomable to me that sixty years of my life have passed. Really, I'm stunned. I'm just stunned.......particularly when so much of my stream-of-consciousness thinking encompasses long-ago scenes, activities, memories, thoughts, and events that FEEL so current i.e., when I see a young mother struggling to corral her kids and flash on memories of myself doing the same; I certainly don't feel 30 years older than she at that moment.....it seems I was JUST doing what she is currently doing. Likewise, when I’m hanging out with Promise House teens or other young people, I don’t feel old enough to be their mother or even grandmother (heaven forbid!!). I feel as vital, passionate, energetic, and cool as they are; unless, of course, I try to play basketball or volleyball with them. Then, unfortunately, I am brought up short VERY QUICKLY as to my lack of youth! But when I’m with them, I don’t FEEL any age difference……I am right back in my own adolescence or young adulthood with them.

It's uncanny how ALL of my life is carried around with me, with parts of it being triggered by a scent, a sound, a song.....and I am RIGHT back there.....and it is CURRENT....and it is WITH me.....and I don't FEEL 60.....I feel 20 or 15 or 35 or 5....and then I notice myself in a mirror.....and I am once again stunned.....because I AM 60!

My vanity is really getting the best of me on this birthday. I have friends who have celebrated their graying hair, their increased wrinkles, proudly announcing that they earned every one of them and are happy to show them off. I, on the other hand, want no such part of this celebration. I will go to my grave covering at least some of my gray and fighting those pesky little wrinkles one by one!

I admit that I am of the Boomer group who wants to be eternally young, who is totally vain, self-involved, and bent on turning back time, as impossible as that is. I've often said that I'm going for 120, still lookin' and feelin' good. I have lucked out with fabulous genes, good health, pretty good looks, and a fair amount of athleticism and may get close to that; however, none of these will save me in the end. I will still get old (hopefully) and die.

Since I can’t go backwards, and the only other option is very unappealing, I guess 60 doesn’t look all that bad. I AM still above ground, functioning, healthy, happy, energetic, and optimistic. Hopefully, I have lots more years to wrestle the hands of time, if not backwards at least not so quickly forward. And I will continue to be stunned at the passage of time, the aging of my friends, family, and me; and I will continue to carry my life around with me and be all kinds of different ages all the time.....that is, until I spy myself in a mirror.

Monday, January 10, 2011

2011 New Years Resolutions for our Government

Happy New Year, Everyone!

During the holidays, I came up with a small list of resolutions our government should make in 2011 regarding the plight of homeless and runaway teens in our country:

Housing – The US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Health and Human Services (ACYF/FYSB) should get together to offer funding for housing and support services for our teens. HUD should re-open funds for transitional housing, which is critical for the success of our teens—they are NOT chronically homeless and most do not have a severe enough disability to be eligible for permanent supportive housing—and DHHS, through the Family Youth Services Bureau should offer funds for support services directly linked to the housing funds. These services would include case management, food, clothing, furnishings, medical and dental, family planning, and everything else we all currently provide for these kids. So, come on HUD and DHHS, what do you say???

Top Billing – Homeless and runaway teens and young adults should be DHHS’ and HUD’s top priority. They should resolve that in order to truly end homelessness in this country, these kids will be a priority focus this coming year and for at least the next 10 years.

Congressional Resolve – Both houses of Congress should resolve to end their neglect of these kids, as demonstrated by the paltry funding that continues to be dedicated to them, by resolving to dramatically increase funding to the Runaway/Homeless Youth Act, to transitional housing funds through HUD, and to other programs that serve these teens.

I’m sure there are many more I could up with, but these will do for a start. My BIG question to the Universe, Congress, and anyone else who will listen is, “When will we get that helping young people get off the streets is SOOOOO much cheaper and SOOOO much more effective than waiting until they are 45, addicted to everything on earth, in horrible health, with terrible mental health conditions?? It is SUCH a no-brainer for me,

Unfortunately, I know that I am preaching to the choir here. You all know the story. You see it every day. Somehow, we need to find the time and the voice to make sure that our government knows the story, that they see it EVERY day, and that they DO NOT ignore this most important story.

So, perhaps our New Year’s resolution should be to be the VERY loud, SQEAKY wheel that gets the grease!

Happy LOUD, SQUEAKY New Year!!!