Their Home Is the Street
Plain Truth Magazine
March 1984
Volume: Vol 49, No.3
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Their Home Is the Street
Donald D Schroeder  

   Their clothes are ragged and dirty. Their bed is a sheet of cardboard wherever they can hide from the probing sweeps of the police. They huddle together for warmth and protection.
   They struggle to survive by their wits — doing menial jobs, running errands, by begging or thievery. They pass their leisure time with fighting, smoking, pulling stunts and gambling. They are social outcasts, often looked down upon as criminals.
   Who are they? They are the homeless young in the cities and towns of Latin America. Some are as young as age 5. Most are boys, but girls now and then join them. Most of these girls turn to prostitution or servitude to survive.
   In one degree or another they all have been abandoned by families unable or unwilling to take care of them. Most no longer know regular family life, only fleeting parental ties. Some, having been beaten and abused by parents, chose to leave them.
   These scores of thousands of abandoned children in Latin America are not alone. Their tragic story is played out in many poverty-engulfed, economically depressed cities of the world in Africa and parts of Asia.
   The phenomenal rise of urban abandoned and neglected youths in some developing nations (and even some developed nations) has been caused in large part by the tremendous population explosion and rural-to-urban migration of the past few decades. Industrialization has not kept pace with this swift population shift. The consequence of this migration has merely transferred rural poverty to urban areas.
   In some regions rural political violence has forced people to make the cities their home.
   Typically the parents of abandoned children in Latin America have almost no education or preparation for any specific job. Their income is not sufficient to cover even the most primary needs of a child — so they set the children out on the streets to fend for themselves.
   In many homes the natural father abandons his family and another man comes to fill his place. But often the stepfather also cannot fulfill the role that the real father deserted. The family atmosphere breaks down finally until, when the domestic strife becomes unbearable, the mother has to choose between children and the partially supporting stepfather. And too often it's the children who must go.
   A poverty-stricken single mother's alternatives are even more unpleasant: if she must go to work she may have to let some of her children go partly or totally to the streets; but for her not to work means neither she nor her children can survive.
   Various programs have been established in Latin American nations to provide some street children with housing, regular meals, a clean change of clothes on occasion and, when sought out, a sympathetic ear. Some programs offer schooling and career training. But these programs reach relatively few of the abandoned children.
   Some of these destitute children are placed in more traditional homes, by adoption, via government agencies. And some individuals, families or stores on their own initiative help feed and clothe vagrant children. Again these efforts benefit only a small fragment of the growing number of abandoned children.
   This world desperately needs to be put back on the right track. It will not be accomplished until the power of the kingdom of God is established over all nations and people taught the true way both to lasting prosperity and right family living — the way of giving instead of getting.

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Plain Truth MagazineMarch 1984Vol 49, No.3