The woman dressed for the cold settled her three children down for a short night’s sleep.
Coats for pillows, they tried to get comfortable on one of the many long, high-backed hardwood pews.
By 11 p.m., the commuter train service to Philadelphia’s suburbs had all but ended and the great hall of the city’s 30th Street Station provided a more or less quiet, warm haven for the homeless.
Her family at least had a safe place to rest.
I had missed a connection with a friend.
For me, a night on the benches could be dismissed as a bit of a lark, something I could write about later.
I had options. Did she and her children have any alternative?
Shortly after 5 a.m., security guards started rousting the overnight crowd. Soon the first of the day’s average 25,000 commuters and Amtrak passengers would start arriving.
Maybe management didn’t want the homeless creating a negative first impression for visitors. Maybe they didn’t want to offend the sensibilities of the regulars.
The last image I have of the small family is of the mom bending over one of her drowsy children helping put a shoe on.
How did their day go?
Would she be able to feed them?
Did they have a school to go to?
What happened the following night?
Last Friday, Campaign 2000 released its 2006 National Report Card on Child and Family Poverty entitled Oh Canada! Too Many Children in Poverty For Too Long.
The study notes “the rate of child and family poverty in Canada has been stalled at 17-18 per cent over the past five years despite strong economic growth and low unemployment.”
Despite some claims to the contrary, “data from Statistics Canada shows that over the past 25 years Canada’s child poverty rate has never dropped below the 15 per cent level of 1989 when the House of Commons resolved to end child poverty.”
The Campaign 2000 report further states that “1,196,000 children — almost one in every six children — live in poverty in Canada.
“In First Nations communities the child poverty rate is higher: one in every four children.”
For more information on their report go to their website www.campaign2000.ca
“Of all human rights failures today those in economic and social areas affect by far the larger number and are the most widespread across the world’s nations and large numbers of people,” the UNDP’s Human Development Report for 2000 declared.
Black, white, First Nations or immigrant, French or English, the poor in our country and elsewhere have more in common with each other than with richer ethnically or racially linked cousins.
Should we consider giving the poor of our country status as a nation unto themselves?
Maybe if we did they would get the attention they deserve.
In 2000, world heads of state and governments unanimously set a series of Millennium Development Goals.
One key pledge was to “make poverty history” or at least reduce it by half by the year 2015.
It seems from the Campaign 2000 report and recent UN studies we have not been making much progress nationally or globally.
What will it take to get our political leaders to act?
We can set an example for them by doing our bit locally in support of anti-poverty efforts.
How about answering Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society of the Yukon’s appeal to replenish its crisis fund (393-4948) or take on a family in need during the annual Share the Spirit campaign (393-3537)?