January 11, 2020
On a single night in the U.S. in 2018, more than 100,000 children were estimated to be homeless. On a cold January 2019 night in the three counties making up the Capital Region, there were 229 homeless children in families and another 45 who were unaccompanied. But that’s not the whole picture. Those numbers don’t count the children who are couch-surfing because they have no home of their own.
The effects of homelessness on children is very different than that for adults. Housing instability affects a child’s well-being. Unstable and unsafe housing conditions increase children’s exposure to violence, neglect, and social isolation. Homelessness is associated with a lack of attention to basic needs, extreme poverty, substance abuse, mental health issues, and high level of parental emotional stress.¹ Homeless children are also more likely than their peers to have moderate, severe, and chronic health problems, and less access to medical and dental care.
For younger children, homelessness experienced during foundational years can be especially harmful.
By the age of two, toddlers in low-income communities are four times more likely to have a cluster of health and developmental concerns than more affluent peers² resulting in long-lasting negative effects including developmental delays and poor educational outcomes.
¹ Hong, S., & Piescher, K. (2012). The role of supportive housing in homelss children’s well-being: An investigation of child welfare and eductional outcomes. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 1140-1447.
² Hillemeier, M.M., Lanza, S. T., Landale, N.S., & Oropesa, R.S. (2013). Measuring early childhood health and health disparities: A new approach. Maternal and child health journal, 17(10) 1852-1861.
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