On Tuesday night, FOX TV hit Glee presented its nearly 9 million viewers with a second lesson on homelessness – offering a realistic picture of what family homelessness often looks like in the current housing crisis.
Sam, a new transfer student spending his first year with the Glee Club, is forced to reveal that his family has been living in a hotel room in order to quash rumors of indiscretions. He does so with shame, fearing that his fellow students will treat him differently when they find out. In the episode, he reveals a small room where he, his two siblings, and two parents have been living. They’ve sold most of their possessions – even his prized guitar – just to have the money they need to survive.
As the story goes, Sam moved to the area when his father found a great job opportunity. When that fell through, the family lost the house and as he notes, “When the bank takes your home… they just take it.”
Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon story for the American family these days. Family homelessness is on the rise across the country as a result of the foreclosure and economic crises and this story, though fictional, illustrates well both how it can happen, and how families cope.
There are hundreds of thousands of families joining the ranks of the “invisible” homeless population. A recent study by First Focus showed a 41% increase in the number of homeless students across the country in just the last two years, and a March 60 Minutes piece noted that, “so many kids have lost their homes that school buses now stop at dozens of cheap motels where families crowd into rooms, living week to week.”
I applaud Glee for again dealing with the hard issues facing American students today. The first step in advocacy is awareness, and Glee is doing its part to help viewers understand how homelessness impacts a family. At the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, we’re working to build on this awareness to ensure that all students like Sam get to keep attending school and receive the help they need to obtain affordable housing for their families. Together, we can prevent and end homelessness in our country.
-Whitney Gent, Development & Communications Director