Miami Jacobs Career College
Each night, thousands of people are homeless in the United States, abandoned buildings, campsites, cars, shelters, motels and occasional couch space in the homes of friends or relatives is the nighttime lodging for these men, women and children. Approximately 20 - 25% of the single adult homeless population suffers from some form of severe and persistent mental illness, while 22% of the American population suffers from a mental illness, only a small percentage of 1.6 million are homeless at any given time. Out of that 1.6 million, 834,000 are children and 62,000 are veterans.
Psychology in the Homeless
When we think about people who are experiencing homelessness, we usually think about adults. Sadly, millions of children experience homelessness every year. These children sleep in cars, shelters, and abandoned buildings. They relocate constantly, which results in their being pulled out of school and away from friends. In the last 15 years, the prevalence of homelessness has risen among vulnerable populations, including veterans, families with young children and unaccompanied youth, among whom ethnic and racial minorities and the extremely poor are overrepresented. Higher than average rates of trauma, untreated substance abuse and emotional and behavioral disturbances affect many. Structural and psychosocial factors combine to heighten the risk of homelessness.
Families are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, accounting for about 41% of the nation’s homeless in 2009 according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. Within these families, more than 1.3 million children are homeless at some time each year. On any given day, at least 800,000 Americans, including about 200,000 children, find themselves without a home.
Many of these families and children have experienced trauma prior to becoming homeless, and homelessness can exacerbate one’s trauma, resulting in a cycle that is tragically damaging and costly to both individuals and communities. The typical homeless family is headed by a single mother, usually in her late twenties. She has with her two or three young children, typically preschoolers. Homelessness affects people of all geographic areas, ages, occupations, and ethnicities, but occurs disproportionately among people of color.
More than 90% of sheltered and low-income mothers and young children have experienced physical and sexual assault. Homeless children who are able to attend school have more problems learning in school. Compared with other children, homeless children are four times as likely to have developmental delays. Twice as likely to have learning disabilities and twice as likely to repeat a grade, most often due to frequent absences and moves to new schools (28% of homeless children go to three or more schools in a single year). Chronic health problems and inaccessibility to medical and dental care can also increase school absences. One study found that 38 % of homeless people obtained some food from garbage cans and 12 %, comprised mostly of families and unaccompanied youth, used garbage cans as a primary food source. This is also why homeless children are sick more often.
Unsafe neighborhoods may expose homeless children to violence which can cause a number of psychosocial difficulties. Violence exposure can also predict future violent behavior in youth which places them at greater risk of injury and mortality and entry into the juvenile justice system. Poverty and economic hardship is particularly difficult for parents who may experience chronic stress, depression, marital distress and exhibit harsher parenting behaviors. These are all linked to poor social and emotional outcomes for children. Some emotional problems may include feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Some behavioral problems may include impulsiveness, difficulty getting along with peers,