Message from National Coalition for the Homeless
Homelessness is a devastating experience for families. It disrupts virtually every aspect of family life, damaging the physical and emotional health of family members, interfering with children’s education and development, and frequently resulting in the separation of family members. One of the fastest growing segments of the homeless population is families with children.
Homelessness severely impacts the health and well-being of the children affected. Compared with housed poor children, homeless children experience worse health, more developmental delays, more anxiety, depression and behavioral problems, and lower educational achievement. School age homeless children face barriers to enrolling in and attending school, including transportation problems, residency requirements, inability to obtain previous school records, and lack of clothing and school supplies.
Attendance rates for homeless children are much lower than for others. All too often, homelessness makes it so hard to get an education that some children drop out altogether. In addition, without even a high school education, the odds are that the children will never escape the grip of poverty.
Homelessness is often a long term situation. Families typically are homeless for up to a year. Most homeless families eventually leave the shelter system on their own. If they are lucky, they settle in decent, stable housing and are able to get on with their lives. Whether a family ultimately prospers depends on many factors, including the stability of the new situation, the strength of the family itself, the quality of the housing, the resources in the new neighborhood, and the ability to establish a supportive network in the community. Homelessness today is not just a housing issue; it is an education issue, a children’s issue and a family issue. Attempts to break the cycle that do not address these facts are destined to fail.
National Coalition for the Homeless