Think of the Children
For the infants and toddlers of the past few years, life in a pandemic is the only thing they know. Today’s children grow up in a climate surrounded by abnormalities. Yet for these children, the pandemic is not simply the curious background of their upbringing; COVID-19 has exacerbated child poverty in the US and the situation as a whole needs addressing. In 2019, 14.4% of children in the US lived in extreme poverty; this rate is one and half times higher than that of adults and 71% of this group were children of color. The most recent data in Virginia shows a child poverty rate of around 13%, putting the state 18th on the issue. Yet this past January, the child poverty rate rose to 17%, or 12.6 million children. Research done by UNICEF and the World Bank concludes that adults living with children are substantially more likely to report a loss of income and days gone without eating due to the financial strains of the pandemic than their childless counterparts. Generally speaking, the switch to online learning worsened barriers to high-quality education for low income families as these parents were forced to choose between employment and childcare.
The Business of Incarceration: How a New Bill Could Mitigate Unjust Fees on Incarcerated Individuals
A bill in the Virginia House of Delegates authorizing a work group to thoroughly evaluate how to best reduce or eliminate private fees levied on individuals currently incarcerated in the Commonwealth is heading to the Virginia Senate for approval.
HB1053 passed by a unanimous vote through the General Assembly last Friday, merely a week after passing unanimously through the Committee on Public Safety.
For many, the Virginia Department of Corrections’ policy of contracting out services such as food provision, transportation and medical care is not shocking information, nor is it inherently a harmful practice. Yet, the specific practice of allowing privatized businesses to provide food and other commissary items to those currently incarcerated now leaves such individuals forced to pay 2x, 3x, sometimes over 10x the amount they would for the same product on the outside.
Stop Vote Shaming
On paper, I’m about as much of a Democrat as one can be. I have voted for the Democratic candidate in every single election that I have been eligible in, and worked on Democratic campaigns and for partisan organizations.
In reality, I’m someone who generally thinks that the Democrats were not doing nearly enough to help the working class even before the pandemic. They have no interest in reigning in the disastrous economic and environmental effects of late-stage capitalism, let alone dismantling it altogether. I’m skeptical of even the most progressive members of the party, especially after the de-facto leader of the “Squad,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, voted present (rather than no) on a bill to fund Israel's Iron Dome, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren proclaimed that she was a “capitalist to her bones”. Put me in a room with establishment party members like Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, and Terry McAuliffe and we would agree on very little.
Yet I voted for Biden rather than Trump and McAuliffe rather than Youngkin. However, not only do I refuse to shame anyone that declined to vote or voted third party, I believe that vote shaming only harms the most vulnerable socioeconomic groups and benefits political elites.
Americans are great at creating spaces that serve our most immediate needs – even if that means sacrificing the needs of our grandchildren. But why haven’t we made it a priority to invest in long-term, sustainable urban development that will pay dividends for future generations?
Starting in the 1950s, American cities tore up their streetcar lines to prioritize and make room for the cars that were crowding city streets. It was this obsession with convenience for the automobile that caused intense and destructive change in American cities. Post-WWII, the Department of Commerce created the Federal Aid Highway Act, which destroyed Black neighborhoods for the sake of highways meant to bring suburban drivers into the city.
In the short-term, these policy choices made it easier to drive a car. In the long term, though, they deeply damaged the fabric of American urban and suburban life. Our dependence on and prioritization of the car has led to lasting effects, ranging from the loss of local businesses and the increase in food deserts to congestion, low air quality, loss of greenspace and the decline of walking.
Within the homeless population, LGBTQ+ people, especially youth, are disproportionately more likely to experience homelessness and do not have access to the services and resources they need within the current system.
A study by the Williams Institute at UCLA found that LGBTQ+ adults are twice as likely to experience homelessness than straight, cisgender adults. Within the LGBTQ+ community, Black people are much more likely than non-black peers to experience homelessness at some point in their lives.
These rates are even higher among homeless youth. There are approximately 1.6 million homeless youth in the United States and LGBTQ+ youth represent 40% of that population. Over half report that the primary reason for homelessness is because of an unsupportive family environment. Additionally, about 60 percent of LGBTQ+ youth report feeling unsafe at school because of bullying and harassment suffered because of their identity.
In addition to being overrepresented within the population of homeless youth, LGBTQ+ children are also more likely to experience mental health disorders, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Transgender people also face unique issues in this space because shelters are typically segregated by gender and they can often be denied access to the correct shelter based on the gender identity. They can also struggle to access transition related care because in most states, Medicaid does not cover these services.
For this reason, PRIDE is launching a donation drive for the Haven Shelter to not only give back to our local community but raise awareness of the disproportionately high rates of homelessness experienced by LGBTQ+ youth and adults. We are also hoping to draw attention to the unique struggles of LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender people, who are experiencing homelessness.
There needs to be action in this policy area to increase support services for LGBTQ+ people experiencing homelessness and to decrease the number of LGBTQ+ people becoming homeless. LGBTQ+ youth need to be supported more within schools and within their homes to reduce the rates of homelessness. There also needs to be an expansion of Medicaid to include access to transition related care services in every state to ensure that transgender youth can access healthcare. Shelters and service providers also need to increase training so that their staff can provide competent care for LGBTQ+ people experiencing homelessness. However, this cannot happen without increased funding to those providing these important services. Communities should also support these shelters by providing them with the necessary resources they need to continue providing services to those experiencing homelessness. We hope you will join us in supporting the Haven Shelter through our resource drive. A full list of the items we are collecting for the Haven can be found on their website.
The views expressed above are solely the author's and are not endorsed by the Virginia Policy Review, The Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, or the University of Virginia. Although this organization has members who are University of Virginia students and may have University employees associated or engaged in its activities and affairs, the organization is not a part of or an agency of the University. It is a separate and independent organization which is responsible for and manages its own activities and affairs. The University does not direct, supervise or control the organization and is not responsible for the organization’s contracts, acts, or omissions.
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