“Motel kids” … an overlooked American tragedy

Even though I’ve moved to Montana, I still listen to Bill Handel on KFIAM radio on Internet from Los Angeles.  On Friday, Handel broadcasted his show from a restaurant in Orange County that every night provides free dinners for kids that live in motels in the area.  In less than three days, over $70,000 has been raised to assist this unfortunate sub-culture.

This topic hits home with me … big time.  A few years ago, while starting my starting my company, the bleedingEDGE – I was raising my teenage daughter, Alex … in a motel.  Finances were tight, and I wanted to make sure she finished high school around her friends in Manhattan Beach in the Los Angeles.  I had taken over full parenting duties after Alex had spent a year and a half with mother who lived in the area.

Getting into an apartment in Manhattan Beach meant a downstroke of $4000 to $5000 – money I didn’t have.  But what I could do is pay for a motel room.  So that’s what we did.  In fact, we spent nights in a campground when money was even tighter.  I felt the money was better spent on buying Alex a MacBook Pro computer.  She may not have a house, but she had the best technology in the school.

During this time we met several families a lot worse off than we were, all living in motels.  These weren’t families that were unemployed deadbeats.  They were working people who just couldn’t afford to get into permanent housing, especially in an area like Los Angeles.  And most of these people did not have the resources we had.  Their dinner consisted of a trip to MacDonald’s or Taco Bell.  Hardly a diet prone to promote synaptic development, let alone the physical wellbeing.

Motel kids of Orange County

We hear a lot about the homeless, those that live in shelters, in their cars, or even on the streets.  But we don’t hear about those caught in the middle, the “motel families.”  And with the current mortgage crisis, it will get even worse.  It’s a lot like the difference between the unemployed and the underemployed.  The former get the press, but the later latter might really be the true indicator of out economy.  Check out this link: The Real Underemployment is 22.5%.

Now Alex is twenty-one now and out of high school was hired by Apple.  The bleedingEDGE is in beta stage and moving along nicely, so things turned and it worked out for us.  But not everybody will be so lucky.  In fact most won’t.

Alexandra Pelosi, Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, did a document called, ‘Motel Kids of Orange County’ which aired on HBO this last summer.  Find it, and watch it.  It’s riveting.  While our situation was not as dramatic, we were still there.

Now here’s the call to action!

Now of course you can contribute to Bill Handel’s cause.  But better yet … make something happen in your own city.  If Handel can make people aware of this travesty, then why can’t a media personality in your area do the same.  Get on the phone, Tweet, email … use your connections to get the awareness out there.  These kids are on the edge.  They can either go the way of my daughter and get through it successfully, or they won’t.  And for a lot of them – it won’t take much to give them that little bit of help that will make the difference.

We can’t expect the government to step in.  Heck they don’t even acknowledge there’s an issue here.  Private solutions for social problems is THE SOLUTION!

Be part of it.


If you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg


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5 thoughts on ““Motel kids” … an overlooked American tragedy

  1. Clay:

    It was very brave for you to admit your plight. Many are too ashamed to admit that they too have suffered through this. Been there, done that, don’t talk about it as those who have not been through it don’t truly understand. It is very taboo in our culture.

    1. Thank you for the comment – and more so, thank you for your kind words. Ironically, the few years Alex and I spent in motels and the tent were not the worst thing in the world.

      I met a lot of interesting people, people that did not have the same chance to rebound as we did. The empathy I acquired was wonderful. And raising my daughter under varied conditions – from Newport Beach to a tent, taught her an awful lot about life. Hopefully the experience will prepare for the inevitable “ups and downs” the future will bring for her.

      Also Laura, check out a later post I wrote I think you will like, “My daughter’s getting a tattoo.” http://wp.me/pqvDI-lE

    1. Thanks Chrissy. Bill Handel didn’t even know this sub-culture existed. Whether it’s this cause … or another, we just have to get the momentum going and keep it going.

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