If you believe that all homeless people are drug addicts and criminals then you will be completely wrong. A large number of those people on the streets are actually homeless children who cannot be blamed for their predicament. They may have ended up sleeping rough due to abuse or simply because their parents have lost their jobs and the means to keep a roof over their heads.
If you want to make a real difference to their lives then the best place to do so would be at your nearest homeless shelter. Such facilities often house a large number of children. It should not need to be stated the negative consequences for a young mind when growing up without a real home and among adults who may have serious psychological problems.
There have not been so many children and adults homeless since the time of the great depression. There are many factors that have led to this unsettling trend. Over the last decade there have been serious cutbacks in social welfare which when combined with an increased cost of living and the effects of the recession have resulted in tens of thousands of families losing their most prized possession – their home. Today studies have shown that as many of forty per cent of the official homeless are families. The US is a rare case among western countries in that such a large number of women and children have found themselves without a roof over the head or a bed to sleep in at night.
Calculating the accurate number of homeless children is not such an easy task, but the National Coalition for the Homeless currently suggest that more than a million kids have no home to go to on any night of the year. This figure is backed up by the Department of Education which suggests that as many as half a million homeless kids attending a public school during 2009. It is believed that more than half of the homeless children are under the age of six so this number given by the Department of Education can effectively be doubled.
Sadly, it is predicted that over the next few years the numbers of homeless families and children is not going to drop. In fact it has been predicted that as the federal government takes steps to come out of recession more individuals are going to face extreme financial hardship.
It should not need to be stated the negative consequences of being homeless on a child’s mind. Apart from the obviously psychological effects there is also the real possibility of a child becoming physically unwell due to homelessness. Typically a homeless child would be undernourished and underweight when compared to a regular kid. Data from the Department of Health and various not-for-profit organizations clearly indicates that homeless children suffer far more from stomach related illnesses as well as other infections.
The constant worry that comes with being homeless can damage a child permanently. It has been noted that many homeless children will require professional care and counseling if they are ever to lead a normal life in adulthood. Unfortunately many homeless children find themselves on the streets again later on in life.
Homelessness can completely devastate and rip apart a family. Children on the streets are at greater risk of being taken away from their mothers and fathers and placed in permanent foster care. Obviously this has profound effects on the state of mind of the child. It is often a cycle of negative circumstances that is impossible to break out of. Sadly the majority of homeless families have no male influence; they are headed primarily by single mothers.
It is clear that homeless children who still go to school face barriers that no child should have to deal with. Academic excellence is difficult to achieve if a child cannot study in the evenings in security and peace. This means that after graduation finding worthwhile employment would be a very difficult task.
So how can you help? The best approach would be to get in touch with a homeless shelter or NGO which provides for homeless children and families. There are many ways in which you can assist and make a very real difference. Providing food, warm clothes and a friendly smile can have a big impact. What may seem like a small effort for us can actually have a massive impact on a homeless child’s circumstances. Whatever part of the country you live in you can be certain that there are children and adolescents that would never forget your kind words and warm heart.