- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The smiling faces and joyful giggles of the scores upon scores upon scores of children Tuesday morning at Langdon Park and Recreation Center were contagious.

The kids were eager to play and enjoy themselves, yet they patiently waited in line to enter one of the bounce houses and other kids-only amenities, and a couple youngsters even allowed one or two other younger ones to get ahead in line.

The sights and sounds left me blinking back tears, mostly because I knew the overwhelming majority of those kids are homeless, living in rigid, non-family-oriented environments through no fault of their own.

Which is why witnessing their delight in having the run of full-service Langdon Park was so startling.

People who drive the homeless-policy buses rarely feel the homeless feeling. After all, it’s someone else’s kids who supposedly benefit from their actions.

To hear adults tell the story, the District’s homeless situation is at crisis levels — driven by underemployment and unemployment, low wages that don’t allow moms and dads to support their families, and the rising costs of food and low-cost housing.

And it’s not just a D.C. thing, as you are probably aware, as homeless campgrounds for adults are popping up here and there.

Meanwhile, it’s difficult to paint a true picture of homelessness as advocates are bickering with each other and the federal government about solutions.

One of the primary issues is nationwide head counts of the homeless. Some advocates support the midwinter Point In Time tally, which the Department of Housing and Urban Development helps conduct.

The Department of Health and Human Services counts, too, but it uses social service data such as rolls for welfare, Medicaid and feeding programs (especially those relayed by school districts).

The day at Langdon could give considerable insight — if only the bureaucrats would stop hiding under and behind their desks, and give eyewitness to what the kids really and truly deserve and need.

Those kids at Langdon? Well, when they rolled off charted buses and hit the park Tuesday morning, the feels-like temperature was already 95 degrees and the sun shone so brightly you’d have thought it was sending those kids a personal hello.

What the kids felt under that hot sun was freedom, pure and simple.

They were happy to do what youngsters should do in summer (and during school time), and that’s romp and play.

Adults running the homeless show have their down time, and kids should as well.

What’s more, this beautiful and grand nation of ours has parks, forests, arboreta and playgrounds everywhere for everyone of all ages.

Unfortunately, politicians and bureaucrats focus so much on what adults want, including dog parks, bike trails, and coffee and craft-brew shops, they forget the kids.

Perhaps now is the time for agency chiefs, policymakers and elected officials — hint, hint Mayor Muriel Bowser — to hang out with the kids at the parks. They’d learn far more than they’d ever learn perched inside city hall.

Langdon Park is no Disney World or Six Flags, where homeless D.C. children got to enjoy themselves on Monday. However, the kids were as happy as clams at high water — freed from the confines of a shelter and hotel rooms.

The kids didn’t create their homeless circumstances. The kids shouldn’t be punished for them.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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