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1.       More Services

People experiencing homelessness, in America, generally have access to more resources to those in Kenya.  Many of the larger cities in America even have entire homelessness initiatives to end homelessness (otherwise known as ‘functional zero’).  And better yet, some cities have even accomplished this goal!

 Especially in rural areas, like Bungoma, people experiencing homelessness have no access to shelters, food banks, clean water and so-forth.  Some religious groups will attempt to help the children experiencing homelessness with soap for bathing in the river and food on Sundays but aid to those without homes is not easily accessible.

2.       Reasons for Homelessness

Homelessness in America can be caused by a variety of situations.  The most common are: physical health issues, mental health issues, substance abuse issues and loss of employment.  However, we often see that the main reason stay homeless is a lack of a support system. 

 The causes of homelessness for the kids we interact with on the street are often much different.  You may be thinking that the main reason for childhood homelessness is the direct result of the AIDS epidemic.  However, this is only partially true.  Yes, we have met some children who have lost both of their parents to AIDS, but it is not the most common reason we see. 

 Land is an important asset in Kenya.  It’s passed down from generation to generation and has ultimately resulted in making it difficult to find open plots of land (for things like say, a landfill – perhaps more on that a different day).  With many people choosing to re-marry after divorce or the death of a spouse, blended families are becoming more common.  It is customary for a man’s land to be passed down to his direct kin, in birth order.  When a woman whom already has children marries a man and enters his home, her children have no right to her now husband’s land.  Therefore, it has been the case of many of our children that the new step-mother forces her husband’s children out of the home, with the hopes that her children will now inherit the land.

3.       Stigma

What are the typical stereotypes you hear in America?  The homeless are just lazy.  Why don’t they just get a job?  They just want money to get high or drunk.

Now imagine that same sort of stigma with children.  Hard, right?  But that is the exact same type of thoughts many people have regarding the kids living on the streets of Bungoma.  The children are often beaten on the streets by passerby’s, store owners, the police and other children. Many schools also will not accept the children on the streets to not enter school and the government has even go so far as to put up billboards urging people to not help the “street children”.

4.       Government Involvement

America has an entire office of the government, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that provides funding towards assisting the homeless population.  HUD allocates funding to Continuums of Care (CoCs) throughout the nation.  For example, I currently work within the Metropolitan Denver CoC, one of the largest in the nation, with an estimated homeless population of 5,506.  This CoC is compromised of 7 counties.  HUD allocates funding to our CoC, who then allocates that money, through grants, to organizations in the 7 counties working towards ending homelessness.  Organizations who are a part of this CoC apply for the grants and if awarded, are heavily monitored to ensure the funds are being used properly.

 Pop over to Kenya and things are a little different.  Coming across government funding is few and far between.  In Bungoma, most homelessness services are funded by local church groups, often with monetary ties to developed countries.