This research papers seeks to explore the issue of homelessness amongst children. This is a very important issue to take into account because homelessness impacts on virtually all the components that characterizes the life of a child. When children are subjected to the status of homelessness, their emotional, physical, social, behavioral and cognitive development facets are inhibited. Pregnant mothers that are homeless encounter a lot of obstacles which jeopardizes a healthy pregnancy (Hopper 2003). These may include acute and chronic health problems (Cisneros 2002), the abuse of chemicals, as well as the inability to afford the unborn child the necessary prenatal care. For those infants that get born to a family in a state of homelessness, they may be affected by low birth weights, and this increase chance of premature death. Such a child may also fail to be immunized due to reduced healthcare access.
According to Reynalds (2009), there are about 50 million children in the United States who may be said to be homeless. The author further asserts that in a majority of the states, plans that seek to cater for the plight of these homeless children appears to be quite inadequate. Homelessness has been said to come about due to a multitude of other issues that entails the abuse of drugs by a parent, alcohol, domestic violence, or even mental illness. As Raynald (2009) has noted, chances of a homeless child experiencing hunger are twice those of a child who is not faced with a similar situation. Compared to children from stable homes, their homeless counterparts have been shown to have a twelve fold likelihood of getting enrolled to foster care.
Homelessness has been defined as “the condition and social category of people who lack housing, because they cannot afford (pay for), or are otherwise unable (Or uninterested) to maintain, regular, safe, and adequate shelter” (Levinson 2004). In addition, the term could also take into account individuals who often reside at a shelter for the homeless. Moreover, individual that have been housed in a given residence pending institutionalization may also be categorized as being homeless. The definition also takes into account individual that are living in a private or public place, and which has not been recognized as being “a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings” (Polakow & Cindy 2001).
The Urban Development and Housing Department of the United States (HUD), has issued a definition for persons that may be considered as being “chronically homeless”. According to the definition by HUD, an individual who is chronically homeless is one who may be afflicted with a condition that is disabling, has had the status of being homeless for over a period of one year, or one who has experienced that status of a homeless individual in at least four incidents for the last three years (Rollinson & Pardeck 2006).
What happens when young people become homeless?
Young homeless children are more likely to be living apart from their parents. In an instance whereby a young child gets detached from its parents, and especially the mother the ensuing negative effects that they experience may be quite long-term this is especially critical, if the separation takes place at the formative stage of childhood development ( that is between one and five years). For the pre-school children, the status of being homeless may very well result in the developmental delays those children demonstrates.
As Allen (2004) has noted, close to 75 percent of the homeless children who are below the age of five years exhibits at the very list a significant deviant developmental-wise, especially with regard to speech or impulsivity. Furthermore, homeless children have a higher likelihood of being afflicted with emotional problems. By and large, children who are homeless have a tendency to not only cry at the slightest provocation, they also papers to overreact should they be upset, even over trivial matters. This is a clear demonstration of the underlying emotional instability.
Kerr (2003) has indicated that for every five children who are between the ages of three and six years, one of they is mire likely to exhibit severe emotional distress, so much so that professional intervention is required. The situation of being homeless has also been shown to contribute greatly to the rise in the number of aggressive youths later in life. This is because at the most crucial time of their lives, these children are denied the chance to experience the joy of a united family setting. Instead, they get introduced to the world and all its evils early in life, with the effect that they get foiled up with spite and remorse over their plight.
Why do young people become homeless?
From the outset, it would perhaps be in order to state that given a chance no one wishes to ever become homeless. The problem is even made worse when we have young children being exposed to the problem of homelessness. This may mean that their future lives could get affected, as they are more likely to miss the care and affection that they so rightly deserve. In addition, they are also likely to miss out on school, thereby shattering their bright future (Kerr, 2003).
There is a multitude of reasons that have been given as to why young people end up becoming homeless, whether in combination, or singly. To start with, children that experiences problems at home, such as domestic feuds may end up becoming homeless. Such children could be experiencing physical and/or emotional abuse from one or both of their parents. As such, they may feel quite unsafe at the home environment, thus opting instead to seek for a life in the streets
(Rollinson & Pardeck 2006).
In addition, domestic feuds could take the form of fights amongst the parents in the full glare of their children. Such scenes are likely to take an emotional toll on a child, with the result that they may wish to leave such an abusive home environment. On the other hand, there are those children that feel quite unwanted, possibly because they do not get the amount of attentions that is required of children their age. A divorce of the parents could also cause the emotional stability of children in the family to fall into disarray, thereby also contributing the state of homelessness. At this day and age, there is a rise in the number of single parents. It is thus not unusual to have one parents getting into a relationship with a new partner who is not the biological parents of the child. Such a development may act to distress the child, and they may end up being homeless.
Away from the home environment, school and the associated problems is another cause of homelessness amongst the children. These problems could take the form of teasing or bullying by the older children. In addition, there are children who may land into problems with their teachers (Polakow & Cindy 2001). Incidence of children finding their school work being too hard have aloe been reported, and this is another contributing factor to the issue of homelessness. A lack of friends at school could also act to demoralize children, and the end result could be dropping out of school, thus becoming homeless.
Another cause of homelessness amongst young people is getting into problems with their peers (Allen 2004). This could take the form of teasing, pressure from peer groups, spreading of rumors, as well as racist or sexist harassment. Then there is the issue of young people getting into trouble with the law. For example, this could be as a result of stealing, beige drinking, vandalism, graffiti, gang involvement, assault and break ins. When young people associate themselves with these vices, they may discover that they share a lot in common their practices with fellow young people in the streets, these are less likely to condone these heinous acts, and instead holds their doers in awe, and so the more reason why young people may find comfort in their company.
Legislation was passed in July 1998 that led to the creation of intervention program for the homeless. What this legislation intended to do was to ensure that there was added flexibility into the area of service provision in as far as the taking care of the homeless is concerned. This intervention program has thus made it possible for the not-for-profit organizations, along with social services providers at the local level that qualifies for funding, to issue grants to the homeless (lph & Debra 2000).
This policy by the federal government towards intervening into the issue of homelessness, whether the victims are children, young people or the elderly, may be categorized into three groups. The first category involves a prevention of the crisis from occurring, in the first place. These programs are so designed as to identify those families that may be encountering a drastic problem of having lost their home. To these, the programs avails one-time funds, often accompanied by services that are meant to ensure that they do not get evicted (Glasser & Rae 1999). These services involve legal and mediation intervention between on the one hand, the tenants and on the other hand, the landlords.
The other intervention measure that has been initiated to overcome the problem of homelessness is the re-housing of some of the people who have lost their homes (Burt, Martha, Pearson, Carol & Montgomery 2006). A majority of the advocates for this intervention measure are nevertheless quick to point out to the fact that such a move may not be able to accomplish much, in the absence of enhancing the availability of affordable houses to those individuals who are at the lower-end of income earners.
The third intervention mechanism is that of offering the homeless individuals supplemental income as a form of security (Markusoff & Guttormson 2008). This is often provided to those individuals who have been plagued by severe disabilities that would stand in their way, as they seek to work and earn an income, to afford housing. Along with this group, the elderly people whose income is quite low are also offered supplemental income.
It is the view of this writer that the intervention measures that have been put in place by the federal government to attend to the issue of homelessness have not been extremely effective, and there is therefore room for improvement. To start with, the programs of one-time funds may not be sustainable in the long-term because we may expect that there shall be a multitude of individuals who will pose as homeless just to get the funds. In addition, the re-housing strategy is also seen as being somewhat faulty, in the sense that not enough houses are being contrasted to counter the ever increasing number of holes individuals.
What is required to overcome the issue of homelessness is the implementation of plans to have a long-term and sustainable solution to this problem (Markusoff & Guttormson 2008). What this therefore calls for, is the addressing of the root causes of homelessness, in the first place, for example, residential institutions are called upon to see to it that those persons that they discharge are able to settle under sustainable housing conditions. Some of these institutions include foster care homes, prisons and jails, treatment facilities for substance abuse victims, and mental facilities. These institutions may achieve a sustainable solution by making sure that their patients undergo extensive behavioral changes, so that they may cease from their former behavior which could have led them to become homeless, in the first place.
Drug abusers and alcoholics may have become homeless, out of falling out with their families,, due to their addictive habits. With proper therapeutic treatment, they could be reconciled with their families, thereby overcoming their homelessness status. We also require having accountability in as far as housing stability is concerned. This is a responsibility on the part of the government, to ensure that it can account effectively for its citizens who are homeless. Once this is doe, plans should be laid down on how to settle these periodically, based on the urgency involved.
The issue of homelessness is one that requires to be handled with the amount of seriousness that it demands (Markusoff & Guttormson 2008). It is important to note here that the number of homeless people have been seen to rise significantly in recent years. Such factors as unemployment, jobs that are not well paying, decreased affordability of housing, abject poverty, and a reduction in terms of the financial support that the government give to the less-financially endowed citizens has greatly contributed to the issue of homelessness.
With regard to the issue of children, a majority of these ends up being homeless through no fault of their own (Rollinson & Pardeck 2006).. Sometimes, it is the doing of their parents. For example, infants could end up being homeless as a result of such practices as their parent abusing drugs or alcohols, with the result that they end up being institutionalized. Young people on the other hand could become homeless after falling-out with their families, friends, or through peer pressure. Whatever the cause of homelessness, it is important that the root causes of the problem is addressed adequately, as opposed to coming up with quick-fixes that are only meant to contain the problem in the short-term. We need sustainable and long-term solutions to the problem.
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