Monday, November 28, 2011

Hard Times Generation?

I've seen many episodes of 60 Minutes but nothing got to me as much as watching these homeless kids living out of car. Scott Pelley brings 60 Minutes cameras back to central Florida to document another form of family homelessness: kids and their parents forced to live in cars:

More than 16 million children are now living in poverty and, for many of them, a proper home is elusive. Some cash-strapped families stay with relatives; others move into motels or homeless shelters. But, as Scott Pelley reports, sometimes those options run out, leaving an even more desperate choice: living in their cars. 60 Minutes returns to Florida, home to one third of America's homeless families, to find out what life is like for the epidemic's youngest survivors.

The following is a script of "Hard Times Generation" which aired on Nov. 27, 2011. Scott Pelley is correspondent, Bob Anderson and Nicole Young, producers.

Never has unemployment been so high for so long. And as a result, more than 16 million kids are living in poverty - the most since 1962. It's worst where the construction industry collapsed. And one of those places is central Florida.

We went there eight months ago to meet families who'd become homeless for the first time in their lives. So many were living day-to-day that school buses changed their routes to pick up all the kids living in cheap motels. We called the story "Hard Times Generation."

Now, we've gone back to see how things have changed. It turns out some families are losing their grip on the motels and discovering the homeless shelters are full. Where do they go then? They keep up appearances by day and try to stay out of sight at night - holding on to one another in a hidden America - a place you wouldn't notice unless you ran into the people that we met in the moments before dawn.

Time, has carried us into uncharted territory. The great recession began December 2007. Almost 1,500 mornings ago.

If you were rushing to work this morning, in Seminole County, Florida, it's not likely you'd notice the truck or hear the children getting ready for school.

Arielle Metzger: In the clear bin, we have dirty laundry. In that one, there's tools that we might need.

Scott Pelley: All these bank bags are storage of this and that.

Arielle Metzger: Like shampoo....

Austin Metzger: And over here is food.

Arielle Metzger: Food.

Pelley: So, you're really not heating up food so much. You're eating out of cans?

Arielle Metzger: Yup.

This is the home of the Metzger family. Arielle,15. Her brother Austin, 13. Their mother died when they were very young. Their dad, Tom, is a carpenter. And, he's been looking for work ever since Florida's construction industry collapsed. When foreclosure took their house, he bought the truck on Craigslist with his last thousand dollars. Tom's a little camera shy - thought we ought to talk to the kids - and it didn't take long to see why.

Pelley: How long have you been living in this truck?

Arielle Metzger: About five months.

Pelley: What's that like?

Arielle Metzger: It's an adventure.

Austin Metzger: That's how we see it.

Pelley: When kids at school ask you where you live, what do you tell 'em?

Austin Metzger: When they see the truck they ask me if I live in it, and when I hesitate they kinda realize. And they say they won't tell anybody.

Arielle Metzger: Yeah it's not really that much an embarrassment. I mean, it's only life. You do what you need to do, right?

It's life for a lot of folks. The number of kids in poverty in America is pushing toward 25 percent. One out of four. Austin and Ariel usually get cleaned up for school at gas stations. They find its best to go to different ones every day so the managers don't get sore.

I will leave my readers read the rest of the transcript and please watch the clip below. If you have kids, force them to watch this so they can truly appreciate what they have. And remind them that Thanksgiving and Christmas aren't about shopping; it's about helping those less fortunate.

Child poverty is a scandal in America. It's a scandal everywhere but this shouldn't be occurring in the "richest, most powerful nation in the world." I'd be ashamed to call myself "American" knowing such child poverty is so widespread right in my backyard. And yet, it is.

This is why economic inequality is the most pressing issue of our time. These kids are amazing, they are coping with unfathomable poverty, but hold their chin up, value education above everything else and manage to survive on next to nothing. They know what really matters in life.

Finally, please donate to Beth Davalos' "Families in Transition Program." In this day and age, nobody should be living out of a car, especially not young kids. Please donate generously and ask your co-workers and friends to donate too. Watch the segment below.

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