Many think of homelessness as a problem that affects only adults who are down on their luck, forgetting that children can face the same predicament.
“I think it’s something that we absolutely need to bring to the forefront, because if you hear the word ‘homelessness,’ you normally think of the gentleman on the corner panhandling,” said Ashley Martinez, development director for Cuidando los Niños. “You don’t think of our babies. … I was oblivious to this before I found this organization. Honestly, it’s kind of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality unless we put it in front of us, because if we don’t we assume someone else is taking care of it, but our job as an organization is to let the community know it’s all of our responsibility. It’s everybody’s responsibility to make sure that these kids, our future, have a better tomorrow, today.”
Cuidando los Niños, formerly known as CLNkids, helps children and their families out of homelessness by providing high-quality early childhood education, therapeutic services, supportive housing and parent education, according to its website.
The organization’s mission has resonated with local musicians. Last year, several bands donated their time to perform at a block party with proceeds benefiting Cuidando los Niños. The bands have returned this year to participate in the “Burque Niños Music Stream-athon to End Child Homelessness.” The virtual event will stream from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19. Each of the band’s performances were recently recorded at Launchpad. Viewers will enjoy sets by the Red Light Cameras, The Riddims, Sun Dog, Gregory Mrvl Tafoya, Def-i and The Ordinary Things.
Cuidando los Niños hopes to raise $5,000, with 100% of the proceeds going toward programs and services to help children and families struggling with homelessness. The organization operates a five-star accredited preschool that provides high-quality education as well as parent support and housing for children and families. Cuidando los Niños takes in children ages 6 weeks to 5 years. According to Martinez, 75% of the children that come in are developmentally behind. Cuidando teachers help get them up to speed by teaching them how to crawl and walk as well as other skills.
“We do have all of our kids here right now, and so we are just taking all of the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines, all the precautions,” Martinez said. “The kids and the staff are the only people allowed in the building. Our parents, we check them as well every morning, but they don’t come in the building. We just take the kiddos from the front door (and) take their temperatures.”
Cuidando serves about 350 children and their families annually and supplies them with basic necessities.
“We have everything form hygiene products, diapers, wipes,” Martinez said. “When we house our families, we hook them up with comforters and blankets and pots and pans. … A lot of people have been generous enough just to really kick-start these families’ lives and make them feel proud about their new beginnings.”
Most children and their families come as referrals from shelters.
“Our job is to get them out of that shelter as quickly as possible,” Martinez said. “The moment that they’re enrolled, they’re actually signed up for housing programs. … For example, we had a family that has been living in their car. It was just a couple days, because it just got cold, so they were all living in their car. So we have hotel vouchers in those cases.”