With school starting up for most kids in the next couple weeks, we thought we would take some time to address the rising incidence of homelessness in families and some of the very devastating effects this has on the children in these families.
In America’s Youngest Outcasts, the National Center on Family Homelessness (NCFH) reports that since its last report in 1999, child homelessness worsened, especially since the onset of the Subprime/Foreclosure Crisis and accompanying recession. Roughly 1 of every 50 children in America will experience homelessness. Additionally, they found that:
-Children without homes are twice as likely to experience hunger as other children. Two-thirds worry they won’t have enough to eat. More than one-third of homeless children report being forced to skip meals.
-Homelessness makes children sick. Children who experience homelessness are more than twice as likely as middle class children to have moderate to severe acute and chronic health problems.
-Homeless children are twice as likely as other children to repeat a grade in school, to be expelled or suspended, or to drop out of high school. At the end of high school, few homeless students are proficient in reading and math – and their estimated graduation rate is below 25%.
Here in Erie County nearly a third of the homeless population are homeless families. In 2008, 64.9% of families were experiencing homelessness for the first time and the most commonly cited reason for homelessness was eviction, evidence that the Subprime/Foreclosure Crises and Recession are hitting Western New York hard.
The average income for homeless families in the area was $497.90/month and 39.2% of families reported not having any source of income. Only 6.1% reported having an income over $20,000/year.
Further, a third of all women in homeless families have experienced domestic violence.
(all data from our “2008 Buffalo and Erie County Annual Homelessness Profile”, which can be found at http://www.wnyhomeless.org)
There will be hundreds (possibly thousands) of children attending school in Western New York this year that will not have a steady place to come home to. As stated above, homelessness will have profoundly harmful effects on these childrens’ development.
Already born into a situation that affords few privileges and numerous challenges, these children and their parents will have to struggle especially hard for the next several years to find shelter due to an abusive housing market that places profit above human need. Some may be able to overcome these inequalities (with a little outside help from family or friends) but many of these children and families will be condemned to minimum wage jobs and unaffordable rents, ensuring that their housing situation will be precarious at best.
The struggle to end poverty and homelessness in Western New York must place as a high priority the healthy development of all children, regardless of income. Facing enormous economic and social inequalities, these children and families need all the help they can get.