A Growing Crisis: How Homelessness Affects Children in the US
Published March 19, 2020
When we hear the word “homeless”, the first image that comes to mind is people sleeping on parks and pavements. But unknown to many, there is one group that is most affected by the country’s homelessness crisis: children.
According to a federal report, the number of homeless students from kindergarten to 12th grade has grown by 70% over the past decade. This doesn’t include runaways and out-of-school youths. In 2014, one report revealed that 1 in 30 children in the country is experiencing homelessness each year.
Most of these children are from single-parent families which comprise a majority of the country’s homeless population. According to a 2018 report, over 90% of these children are staying in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs. (Related: Homeless Mothers Who Turned Their Lives Around)
For the past several years, steps have been done to address this growing crisis. But the recent explosion in real estate prices in major cities seem to undermine these efforts. Each year, more and more children are losing their homes which affects their education, health and leaves lasting trauma.
With no permanent place to stay, most homeless children struggle to go to school. They lag behind on lessons, homework, and other school activities.
Federal law mandates school districts to provide transportation for homeless children. But oftentimes, this isn’t enough to keep a child in school.
When the family moves to a different shelter across the state, it means a new school for the children. Some homeless children even reported having changed schools at least twice a year.
As the new kid in school, homeless children are often subjected to bullying. Not only that but every time a child transfers school, they lose around four to six months of academic learning. Add to this the stress of adjusting to yet another unfamiliar environment. It’s no wonder why many of them choose to skip school.
With these difficulties, only very few homeless youths actually make it through high school. No diploma means lesser employment opportunities. Thus, they tend to become homeless even as adults.
Because they often have to skip meals, many homeless children suffer from malnutrition. As a result, they are more prone to diseases.
Data gathered by private institutions suggest that asthma is one of the most common illnesses of homeless kids. Displacement often interrupts their asthma maintenance. Staying in homeless shelters also increases their exposure to various kinds of allergens which trigger attacks.
Lack of access to sufficient and nutritious meals also takes a toll on their bodies. Very young children housed in shelters are found to have a high rate of iron-deficiency anemia.
Experiencing homelessness at an early age also increases their risk of developmental delays. This affects them even until adulthood which puts them at a great disadvantage among other children their age.
Homelessness often leaves severe trauma on an innocent child. And it’s a known fact that childhood traumas often manifest in an adult’s behavior.
Being a constant victim of bullying and no safe place to call their own can mess up a child’s emotional response. Bullied children turned out to be either violent or closed off to the world. Either way, they have difficulty trusting others and building relationships. Not to mention that the constant moving about keeps them from getting to know other people long enough to form even a semblance of friendship.
Most homeless children have also been victims of domestic violence. Studies suggest that these children often display signs of various behavioral problems. This can include aggression, self-disturbance, anxiety, and depression.
Help Us Help The Homeless
We at Our Father’s House Soup Kitchen have been helping the homeless in South Florida since 1989. Our mission is to provide them with a safe haven where they can get meals free from condemnation and discrimination. Aside from hot lunches, our guests also get a take-out bag, clothes and hygiene kits.
You can help us help the homeless too. We accept donations in cash or in kind. You can donate through our online facility or drop off food or clothing donations at our office in Pompano Beach. Any amount will be a huge help in getting them through this trying time.