Saturday, October 23, 2010

Youth Homelessness

Homelessness is an extraordinary challenge in the United States, mainly due to the fact that the majority of the people affected are “invisible” victims.  That's to say, they are functioning members of society who happen to be experiencing such extreme poverty that they simply can’t afford to keep a roof over their heads.

This situation of quiet desperation is experienced by an estimated 1.5 million youth and a collective 2.3 to 3.5 million Americans at least once each year.

*** The Facts ***
34% of the homeless population are made up of women and children

  • of which, 84% are female headed (on average the single mothers are in their late 20’s w/ 2 young children)
  • 640,000 of homeless children are under the age of 6

42% of homeless youth are school-aged and enrolled in school

  • of which, 77.3% (697,130) are in grades K-8
  • of which, 22.7% (204,978) are in grades 9-12
  • of which, 43% repeat a grade

Not since the Great Depression have so many kids stood at poverty’s door.  But even more than the debilitating effects of being impoverished, homelessness is profoundly destructive to the educational outcomes of these youth.

Children in families experiencing homelessness are unable to attend school regularly.  Alarmingly, poor attendance is a significant predictor of dropping out of school and the impact of interrupted schooling can have long-term consequences. 
Statistically, by the time a homeless child is in secondary school, they are left on their own without structured academic help.  By the time they’re in their teens, most homeless youth are “couch surfing” or one of the 50,000 youth in the United States who sleep on the street for six months or more.  Field experts are quick to point out that there are far less family and teen shelters than there are for single sex shelters, an issue which clearly needs to be addressed.

There are approximately 110 homeless shelters in California and only 3 are for teens.

According to a First Focus report the number of homeless public school students nationally rose 41%.  In fact, the number of homeless students (preK-12) increased in a school year from 679,724 (2006-2007) to 956,914 (2008-2009).  A recent article in the NY Daily News says, “At 19 of the 20 schools that the Education Department announced last month it plans to shut down, the number of homeless kids jumped by more than 100%.”  

“School is a refuge for homeless children and youth, providing safety, structure and services.  Education is also their surest path to economic and stable housing in adulthood.” 

In order to raise awareness of the challenge of youth homelessness, KooDooZ and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Monica is hosting a Sleep Out from 6 pm on Friday, August 27th to 8 am on Saturday, August 28th.  Up to 150 kids are invited to make no-sew blankets, watch a movie on this topic and learn how to help in meaningful ways.
·         7-year old Jonas Corona will discuss how he has been able to help homeless youth through his nonprofit organization, Love in the Mirror with the donation of backpacks filled with supplies for middle school students.
·         Ehecatl Rojas of Los Angeles Youth Network will discuss some of the characteristics and traits traditionally seen in homeless youth.  Many are frequently shy and withdrawn.  Homeless students are likely to have lower self-esteem and higher levels of anxiety than their peers.  Overall, their academic performance is compromised.

While the recession has certainly refocused our attention on the plight of the poorest families, our nation doesn’t yet understand what actions every day people can take to help.  This event is an important way for kids and their families to learn what to do to help a worthy cause.

Posted via email from KooDooZ

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