According to a report by the National Center on Family Homelessness, one in 30 American children are homeless. If that number sounds high to you, it is. It’s an all-time high for the United States, in fact. This in-depth report is about more than just statistics and numbers, it is an all too clear picture of what is happening to our youth—the epidemic of mental, physical, and spiritual harm they are experiencing on a daily basis.
“America’s Youngest Outcasts” points out that 2.5 million American children experienced homelessness in 2013, which was an 8 percent increase from 2012. It is hard to imagine this many children in our country that are experiencing something as devastating as homelessness. Without help, these experiences can cause many problems that they may never recover from. But we know that children are resilient and with help, change, and recovery, these children can grow up and experience a normal life.
What can be done? The study shows these things are crucial for change:
• Safe affordable housing.
• Education and employment opportunities.
• Comprehensive needs assessments of all family members.
• Services that incorporate trauma-informed care.
• Attention to identification, prevention, and treatment of major depression in mothers.
• Parenting supports for mothers.
• Research to identify evidence-based programs and services
Excerpt: Research has continued to document the mental health needs of homeless children. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis based on the literature to date summarized the mental health needs of homeless children. The authors found that 10% to 26% of homeless pre-school children had mental health problems requiring clinical evaluation. This increased to 24% to 40% among homeless school age children—two to four times the rate of poor children in a similar age range (Bassuk, Richard & Tsertsvadze, 2014 in review). In light of these findings, any solution to child homelessness must account for high levels of stress experienced by these children, and their frequent exposure to violence and its mental health consequences.
Children experiencing homelessness are among the most invisible and neglected individuals in our nation. Despite their ever-growing number, homeless children have no voice and no constituency. Without a bed to call their own, they have lost safety, privacy, and the comforts of home, as well as friends, pets, possessions, reassuring routines, and community. These losses combine to create a life-altering experience that inflicts profound and lasting scars. For over 25 years, The National Center on Family Homelessness has conducted research to document the reality of these children’s experiences with the hope that we can mobilize the political will to improve the lives of these children. This report continues our commitment.
This report is truly eye-opening. If you want to know more about child homelessness, I highly recommend reading through this entire study found here. It’s 130 pages, but you will walk away with a clearer understanding of what is happening to the youth in our country.
If you would like more information about Partners to End Homelessness and what we are doing in our community, please give us a call at (601) 213-5301. We would love to speak with you!