A very good friend of mine, Trish Kanter, is on an epic voyage, and no, it has nothing to do with EMR vendor Epic, but everything to do with homelessness in the United States.
Last year, Trish told me about her plans to ride from Atlanta GA to Boston MA (1,500 miles in 15 days) in the Spring of 2009 to bring awareness to homeless mothers with children. Hinting that she would love to have some company for this ride, I had to beg off as I was in the middle of starting Chilmark Research and did not see anytime in the near future, let alone a year away, where I would be able to take that amount of time off. Though I did not join her for the ride, she and I rode together numerous times over the course of the winter and early spring to get her ready for this adventure.
Since she began her trip, Trish has been posting nearly every day of her most recent adventures and experiences. You see, she does not finish her ride at some posh hotel or in the company of countless other riders on some charity ride, no she starts and finishes each day’s ride on her own, ending the day and spending the night at or near a homeless shelter with the mothers and their children. Seeing as Trish also happens to be the CEO and co-founder of Dancing Deer Bakery, she has also created this great activity with the kids at each shelter; decorating gingerbread houses as a way to connect and get to know the kids, their mothers and most importantly, their stories which she then conveys through her posts to the broader public. How she finds the time to do a 100 mile ride each day, socialize at the homeless shelter, host interviews with the local press and then write a post, I have no idea, but it sure is inspiring.
Having read her posts inspired me to do a little digging on just what homelessness means as it pertains to health. Following are some quick stats (note, I focused on families as that is what Trish is riding for):
- While it varies significantly, year to year, homelessness affects approximately 3M people/yr. Under the current economic stresses of the recession, this number is likely higher right now.
- Over one third of the homeless (36%) are families with children.
- Families are the fastest growing sector of the homeless population in the US
- 1 in 7 homeless persons is a child under the age of 15.
- A study released in 2004 found asthma to be 6x higher among homeless children or roughly 40% of homeless children population.
- Virtually all homeless persons rely on Medicaid for care.
In a country as wealthy as the US with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world (#6), it seems almost criminal that we have so many who reman homeless, not by choice but by circumstances. While I always knew there was a “homelessness issue” I never fully comprehended it at a personal level until I started reading Trish’s posts. Take some tme to read a couple of her reports from a shelter, they are truly enlightening.
On Wednesday May 6th, I will cut out early, hoping to join Trish and her entourage as they make their way to Boston. She has done a wonderful thing in doing this ride and as her training partner, I want to be there for that final leg.