“I was quiet all the time. I didn’t want anyone to know where I was living.”
David, age 10
How Homelessness Impacts Children
The average age of a homeless person in the US is 9 years old.
More than 20,000 homeless children live in the San Francisco Bay Area, with an estimated 220,000 in California
~ California Dept. of Education
Sixteen million American children live below the poverty level.
DrawBridge facilitators and volunteers see homeless children dealing with issues of fear, anger, extreme isolation, shame, stress, basic survival, low self-esteem, lack of sleep, loss of control, guilt and anxiety on a regular basis. Homeless children often feel a need to present a strong and “normal” image. This kind of stress can have an overwhelmingly negative impact and cause severe long-term effects. Shelters focus on the survival needs of parents, who are often too stressed out to give their kids much-needed emotional support.
Homeless children are much more likely to do poorly in school, be absent or sick, and feel shame and helplessness about their situation. A 2013 US Department of Education report states that homelessness is one of the most significant risk factors related to school dropout, from middle school through high school. The report says that California has the largest population of homeless students in the country, and twice the rate of homeless students as the national average.
The following is an excerpt from The Stanford Studies of Homeless Families, Children & Youth, 1991:
Homeless children seldom reported playing with their parents or having fun with family members. One said, “Six months ago we went to the park.” Indeed, 20% of the children reported that their most recent family activity happened over a year ago.
Homeless children are survival-oriented. When they asked to make three wishes, 36% of their wishes emphasized basic needs like shelter and income, and 16% oriented towards the well-being of other family members. “I worry about my mom always having stress on herself,” explained a nine-year-old homeless girl.
Despite their problems, homeless children were more likely to be compassionate than to be hardened. A homeless mother said “My little boy asked me, ‘Mommy, can I have 30 cents?’ I asked, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘I want to give it to this homeless man.’ I gave him the 30 cents, even though I only had $1.30.”
Facts about Homelessness Children
One out of every 30 children in the U.S. experienced homelessness in 2013, a total of 2.5 million.
Homeless children are twice as likely to experience hunger as other children, and sick four times more often
These children are:
Three times more likely than their peers to develop behavioral problems
Four times more likely to show delayed development ~ The National Center on Family Homelessness
More than twice as likely to repeat a grade, be suspended or drop out of school ~ Child Trends
At grade level proficiency in writing and math only 50% of the time ~ US Dept. of Education