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Great Neck Notebook: January 18, 2012

17 and Homeless

The newspapers and local TV channels ran the story. Even some national news shows ran it. Who could resist? Samantha Garvey, 17 years old, a senior at Brentwood High School on Long Island, was a semifinalist in the prestigious Intel science competition. And she’s homeless.

Samantha lives with her brother, sister, and parents in a Bay Shore homeless shelter—the family was evicted on New Year’s day from their home after a series of financial problems left them in dire financial straits.   Although her long-term goal is to be a marine biologist, right now Samantha‘s priority is to help her family.

Few were were surprised when offers of help came pouring in after Samantha’s national recognition. The Garveys were soon relocated to a subsidized housing unit and offers of scholarships for the talented 17-year -old came pouring in.

All in all it was a feel-good story. Well, almost. I started thinking about the other families living in that shelter in Bay Shore—-the families not lucky enough to have a nationally recognized science student. I started thinking about the other children in that shelter and how being homeless was affecting their lives. It’s hard to imagine a situation more stressful for a child than being homeless.

You might say, “It’s a tough break to be homeless, but why should I care about those children and those families?” You might say, “I’ve got my own problems to deal with.” And who could argue with you.

What I might say is: “Our children are our future.” At the same time that the story broke about Samantha Garvey, there was another story about a teenage science whiz whose experiments have pointed to a possible cure for cancer. And there was a story about a young child whose timely call to 911 saved his mother’s life.

 In the New York Metropolitan/Long Island area, there are currently more than 17,000 homeless children, children whose futures are being compromised by circumstances beyond their control. Children whose chances to grow up healthy and strong and become productive members of society are being compromised. Children whose futures are being foreclosed by homelessness, hunger, and poverty.

Fortunately, there are organizations, like the Interfaith Nutrition Network (INN), that specialize in helping families and children who face homelessness and hunger every day. Last year the INN served over 300,000 meals to hungry Long Islanders and provided safe havens in their three emergency shelters and long-term housing sites, along with counseling and other support services.

If the plight of the homeless is not something you can ignore, if you would feel good knowing you made a difference for a family in need, then please join me in supporting the efforts of the INN. Donations may be mailed to: Dave Golbert, 7 Lee Court West, Great Neck NY 11024. Please make your check payable to: The Interfaith Nutrition Network.

Whatever amount you can afford to give has the potential to change someone’s future for the better. It has the power to change all of our futures for the better.