Out in the Cold: Homelessness & Academic Performance

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Photo courtesy of  Lexie Flickinger

Written by Courtney Battle

As the Fall season gets underway, days get cooler and our clothes get warmer.  We look forward to football and Thanksgiving, but we often forget about those who are less fortunate than us, and have no homes or families to go to during these times.  Homelessness itself is a very serious issue, but can be especially difficult for children.

According to this report, 1,258,182 homeless students were enrolled in American public schools during the 2012-13 school year.  Wrap your head around that number:  1,258,182.  Now imagine what that experience is like- you and your family having no place to live, and yet still getting up every morning to go to school.  Most of us probably could never imagine this life, but unfortunately this is a reality for more than a few kids.

On top of the larger issue of homelessness, one of its side effects are poor performance in school.  The stress alone of being homeless can have several detrimental effects on how a child does in school.  Homeless students are prone to learning disabilities, emotional-behavioral disorders, anxiety, and depression.  Make no mistake, children that live in happy, healthy homes can struggle with these issues as well, but are much less likely to.  A comfortable place to do your homework that has heating and cooling, food in the fridge, and shower to bathe in are all basic amenities that many students probably take for granted, but others would give anything for.

So what is being done to address this problem?  Children’s advocacy group First Focus and several other organizations are pushing their support for the Homeless Children and Youth Act, which would broaden the current definition of homelessness to include children who are temporarily staying in hotels, motels, or with others.  81 percent of homeless children do not fall under the current definition, therefore leaving them ineligible for certain services.

Across the country, Americans are taking notice well.  These Ohio students spent a night outside with few personal items to feel what homelessness is actually like, and raise awareness.  In San Francisco, the nonprofit Hamilton Family Center has a goal of raising $6 million over three years to add to city funding.  In addition, the organization plans to meet with schools with the highest homeless student populations to hopefully reach families before or right after they become homeless.

Community ONE believes that all children should have the right to excel.  It is our goal to expose students to people who have overcome various challenges, and still ended up with successful careers and lives, no matter where they came from or where they lived.

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