Kayla McArtor, a sophomore at Bellows Free Academy in St. Albans, wrote this piece in response to a prompt to write about homelessness in Vermont and to focus on the COTS (Committee on Temporary Shelter) #172 campaign that creates awareness about the number of homeless children in Vermont (about 370 statewide and 172 in Chittenden County alone.)
By Kayla McArtor
Grade 10, Bellows Free Academy , St. Albans
The average number of children one woman gives birth to (total fertility rate) in the United States: 2.06. Two kids per family.
One-half of 172 is 86.
The average class size for teachers in departmentalized instruction in secondary (high) schools in Vermont is 19.4.
As one cannot teach two-fifths of a student, 20 shall serve as a realistic number in its stead.
Twenty multiplied by four is 80. That number could be fulfilled by your English class, language class, social studies class and science class. Enough to fill those four classrooms put together, enough to fill the basketball court in your school gymnasium with students.
Now add their siblings. Each has one. Younger, older; another gym is full of children.
That is only 160 out of 172. The teachers of those four classes each have two children; then two of your best friends who aren’t in any of your classes join you.
Suddenly the walls of the building around you, the gymnasium, all of that disappears.
It’s January. Snow is falling, and so is the temperature. All of you pull your coats, if you have them, tighter about your shoulders and head for one of the few shelters nearby.
Maybe this one facility can fit all of you, two gyms full of children, maybe it can feed you ... or maybe it simply doesn’t have the space, and some of you, maybe your two best friends, have to find another shelter.
172 children who don’t have a permanent home and rely on donated food that is served to them because they don’t have enough money to pay for their own and aren’t old enough or skilled enough to find a decent job or hold a decent job while juggling their studies in the hopes of one day getting a scholarship.
One county. One county in Vermont harbors 172 homeless children.
Six hundred and twenty square miles out of 9,623 square miles in Vermont, out of 3.806 million square miles in the United States.
172 isn’t that big a number. It is, however, a large number of young lives that need support in them.
And it is not, in any way, a small problem.