The Effects of Child Homelessness
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Driving toward Western and Cermak, there is a beaten up auto shop with old mattresses and junk out front. Every now and then, people can be seen sleeping, trying to escape the bitter cold of this windy city. Recently, a family has started to live there, in front of the run down auto shop, with their child wrapped up in multiple jackets to avoid the inevitable and dreadful cold that plagues Chicago at night. The child could not have been any older than five years old, small and thin, with dark straight hair, and eyes that seemed like those of Precious Moments dolls. Oblivious to the harsh reality around them, this child suffers from something more common than thought; homelessness.
Children often go to public schools because their families are of limited means and have little to no income, generally speaking. In CPS(Chicago Public Schools), 80.22% of students are economically disadvantaged. At Phoenix, 95% of students come from homes with low enough income that qualify for free and/or reduced lunch. One of the nearly inevitable side effects of economic disadvantage or little income flow is homelessness. In CPS, 18,831 students were homeless during the 2015-2016 school year. Though, statistically speaking, this is 6.8% (about 1.374 students) less than the previous year, the amount of homelessness within CPS is an extraordinarily high amount,according to Chicago Homeless (a website about homelessness in Chicago). Even more heart wrenching is that 98.2% of all of the homeless children in Chicago are of color. Furthermore, it is clear that child homelessness is a great problem in our city.
Though homelessness is a serious problem in Chicago specifically, Illinois is ranked 25th when it comes to child homelessness, according to a News Week online article. With very little resources and stability, students are often left to fend for themselves in order to survive. Because of the lack of resources or a helping hand, 32% of children that are homeless have or will have attempted suicide, are two to three times more likely to be victims of rape and assault, and one third h have or are likely to engage in “survival sex” (sex in exchange for safety, money, or shelter). Even more so, one in four will graduate high school, are at greater risk of contracting or developing chronic health disorders like asthma and diabetes, and are more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder. Their health and stability are at risk if not given proper help or a proper home.
Many people will think that this does not directly or severely affect people around them or in their life, but this is not the case. About 6% of Phoenix students are homeless; that equals about 30 students in the whole school. Homelessness can affect anyone and it can unfortunately wreak havoc for those students. These facts are very scary and are often not heard of because some believe it is better to not know at all. Even so, simple awareness is very important. The facts are terrifyingly true, and are in need of attention.
If you or anyone you know are affected in anyway by homelessness or are not able to go home for any reason, download “Streetlight Chicago”; it is an app that has up-to-date information on shelters, health clinics, emergency resources, mental health services and more. If this isn’t possible, please seek help from any adult in the building, particularly Ms. Erwin or Ms. Johnson.