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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Homeless Children: A Familiar New Problem

Homelessness is something that we quickly overlook, and homeless children are people who often don't acknowledge; but, know for certain that there is an increase in the number of homeless children in America. Also know that this increase has been going on for years.

Recent reports show that 1 in every 30 children are homeless.  In a report titled "America's Youngest Outcasts", the National Center on Family Homelessness calculates that at some point there were nearly 2.5 million homeless American children in 2013.  This report is based on The Department of Education's count of 1.3 million homeless children in public school, in addition to an estimated number of homeless pre-school children. The report is different from The Department of Housing and Urban Development's one-day count of homeless people in January 2013 which tallied a far lesser number, perhaps not counting for children staying temporarily with friends and relatives or staying in motels.

Child homelessness increased 8 percent nationally from 2012 to 2013.  Only those who have experienced child homelessness can truly give insight to its devastating effects; however, one can conclude that there can be severe emotional and social developmental results. It is normally the face of the adults that we see on the news when there's a story about a family who has lost their home due to a head of household's unemployment status or poor health. There is only the assumption that the children will be sheltered, schooled, and fed during this time of difficulty. The stories are plenty of teenagers who seek shelter by "couch surfing" or going from relative to relative. Some stay in a friend's basement or a stranger's tool shed, while others may be exchanging sex for a place to stay.  Needless to say, most are staying in places that do not feel safe.

The growing number of child homelessness beckons for a change in the way the system is managed. Of course, there are shelters and transition homes as well as school counseling programs that may respond when the need is present; but what about the parent who continues to make minimum wage and lives paycheck to paycheck? Perhaps the powers-that-be should attach a picture of a homeless child to a company's proposal to stave off employee's pay raises? Surely, that may not sound like a rational resolve to this dilemma; but it is one suggestion out of a hundred for a problem that does not appear to be going away.

Brian L. Elliott, The Scarlet Journal
November 17, 2014 11:24PM EDT