As in most counties in Virginia, there are homeless people, each person having varying needs as well as those with hearts filled with hope. Some homeless families live in cars, some live in the woods, some live on the streets and some in shelters. Some need jobs, some need counseling assistance, some need medical attention, some need schooling, and some realize many other needs. It is apparent that all need a place to live in a stable environment.

Little is said about children when thinking of their homelessness, mainly because the parent/parents are trying to get many needs met that will possibly help them. During these times, many parents must care for the children while pursuing assistance. Other parents may be involved with drugs or alcohol, leading them to failure and/or court and jail involvement. This often results in child abuse and lack of school attendance. Hope needs to be built, in some way, as we reach out to those families.

It is first important to think about children in general. It is said that children are the future of our country. Yes, children grow and learn and relate their past, in many ways, to the stability of their future. We know that a secure family, education, lack of abuse, good health and many other things contribute to the future success of stable children. Early life as a homeless child, with minimal support or security, often offers no positive future. While homeless adults are hopefully making some effort, what is happening to the children?

In Shenandoah County, there are, of course, programs for the homeless. However, Shenandoah County has very little flexible childcare available for homeless children that could be offered at a reduced price or considered as a scholarship where children could receive positive sameness and security from their program. Without childcare, when parents try to make a difference and can’t, they may give up and remain without hope, risking their child’s safety. Many children who are not yet school age are suffering as the homelessness continues.

Childcare is a desperate need in our county, and we all need to care enough to take action on each child’s behalf both for their safety and their future. Even one sincere and caring adult can stabilize and strengthen a child’s future. In their current homelessness, childcare can be their stabilizer. Where will the flexible childcare come from?

Action is needed. We all must be responsible for the well-being of children for the sake of their future and ours as our county grows. Some children may need to come to childcare once a week, some two or three times a week, and some five days a week. Such help for these homeless children can offer positive memories, growth of life skills, hope for long-time learning, and a strong voice for a positive future.

Talk to churches that have childcare programs. Ask for financial adjustments or scholarships for these children. It is time to speak to church boards and church members. If your church has no childcare program, please start one for homeless children.

Perhaps there are stable, caring individuals within the county who understand the needs of children and can offer positive growth and assistance for programs.

Reach out for funding and let people know how important this is.

Be the person or persons who contribute not only to children’s immediate physical needs but to their need for emotional well-being and growth as well as their real feelings and need for safety and caring.

Talk to schools, school boards, and community councils about starting preschool programs for those homeless children under school age. If not already completed, an after-school plan should also be constructed for school-age children who will not be singled out as homeless.

Offer ideas and action on how to receive care for these children. Then take action.

Be the person who contributes not only to homeless children’s immediate needs, but to their emotional well-being, their needed feeling of safety, and their future productivity as they grow and learn.

Believe in these children enough to help in forming healthy dependable childcare services. This will offer each homeless child a memory of security and caring that will enrich their life now and also in their future.

Dr. Heather W. Conway is a Woodstock resident.