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Health Effects of Homeless Children

2010 March 23

In high school I volunteered for a non-profit organization called “Stepping Stones,” a program that provides transitional housing for children. I set up a table outside of the cafeteria to help raise money and spread information about the organization. There was another student helping me. I didn’t know her very well, but I decided to start a conversation with her as I knew I would be volunteering with her for the day. I soon learned that she was a part of the Stepping Stones program. At that moment I realized that homelessness does not always have the usual, negative stereotype. The truth is that that the majority of homeless people in America are children.

The recession has caused many single parents to lose their jobs and remain unemployed, making the problem worse. This leaves families unable to pay bills and to lose their homes. Children are forced to live in undesirable conditions because their parents are unable to bring in a sufficient income. It is a somewhat silent issue because of the embarrassment that comes with being homeless. Families will only turn to homeless shelters and soup kitchens as a last resort because the embarrassment is more hurtful than living in adverse environments.

These children must deal with stress on a daily basis. Even those who are not yet homeless but rather in jeopardy of becoming homeless or living in poverty must face the stress of potential homelessness. Children under such conditions worry about getting enough food, whether or when they will be kicked out of the house, how friends will react once homelessness is announced, and whether the child will be kicked out of school because of the lack of residency.

The stressors of being homeless can lead to many homeless children feeling depressed, causing detrimental health effects. Stress over long periods of time can cause the immune system, digestion system, and growth and reproductive systems to slow down or stop. Children are more at risk as they are still in the growing process. This is when psychological issues turn into physical. Not only is a child feeling depressed, stressed, and isolated, but the child is now suffering from health problems as well.

About the author: Nicole Reising is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a sophomore studying non-profit management at Indiana University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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15 Responses leave one →
  1. Sue permalink
    March 23, 2010

    I’ve never heard that homeless children affect the health of anyone. Do the poor darlings spread disease?

    Perhaps you really meant to say “How Homelessness Affects Children’s Health” or “The Effect of Homelessness on Children’s Health”?

  2. Ladislau permalink
    March 23, 2010

    It is so sad that is happening with mature people,what can i say about children?This is also happening in our country…crisis or not it’s still sad..

  3. edgardo berraz permalink
    March 23, 2010

    It’s absolutelly worry for me,to think about children without home.I ever think than adults cansurvive in homelesses condition,even that this is undesisable,but imagine whole indefenses children living in the street,it’s over all that can I support.It’s necessary,in your country,and in the whole world,to organise sistems who fight against the fact of parents,that to pass asa jobless,lost their homes,and are living in streets.

  4. Al Bannet permalink
    March 24, 2010

    Dear Nicole Reising,

    It is unbearable, yet it goes on, defying all short term solutions, and for a very significant reason — however many children may be helped individually, there are always many thousands more waiting for help because the human population keeps on growing. The decision to birth a child should always depend on the parents economic and psychological ability to provide what the child will need, but instead, childbirth continues to be part of the social chaos that continues to plague the World, from ancient times to the present day. Often women are forced into pregnancy by their idiot husbands enforcing church dogma. Every neighborhood needs a family planning clinic where women can receive the helpful counciling when and if they need it.

  5. A Mom permalink
    March 25, 2010

    Whether or not a child becomes homeless at some point in his life is not always dependent on the economic and pshychological ability of the parent to provide for him at the time of his birth. Personally, I was perfectly capable of providing for my first child – I had a good job and so did my husband and we had a home – then he lost his job and the world crumbled. Situations change…that does not take away the problems that homeless children face…there is a stigma attached to being homeless that younger children may not know but older ones have to live with.

  6. Al Bannet permalink
    March 26, 2010

    In a carefully planned society where everyone shares in a system of social services, a man losing his job would not be an economic disaster for him and his family, but merely a pause between jobs or training. But the planning cannot extend to the Market unless it becomes a socialist economy, which has never worked wherever it was tried. But the free enterprise systen can regulated to prevent the seemingly inevitable boom and bust, which is only the rampage of greedy robber barons. But until then the families suffer.

  7. Kevin Higgins permalink
    March 26, 2010

    Recently we have started to supply some of our systems to the family
    shelters to see how our program will work out with them. After receiving the
    following letter …

    ‘We have recently received a computer system from you. We have finally found housing after 4 months of being homeless. My children are 11 and 13, they are so excited to come home from school and get on there computer for help on there homework. Thank you so much for showing my children that the world has good people in it.
    My sincere thanks,
    Name Taken Out For Privacy Reasons’

    After receiving this letter and reading your story which has now reinforced our belief to continue supplying the shelters with our computer systems.

    Kevin Higgins

  8. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    March 26, 2010

    We need a better social safety net so a person who loses their job will not be forced into homelessness and their family have to follow them there. But a few can prevent the needed safety net from being put in place just by saying no because it will make taxes go up. Taxes may need to go up on the wealthy and large national and multinational corporations. California is the only oil producing state in the country that does not have a tax on each barrel of oil taken out of the ground. Family planning has a critical role to play in helping reduce homelessness by providing access to needed birth control measures and information to poor women and teenagers here and in other countries. To do this religious dogma and superstician must be overcome by good quality information and science presented in a way that illiterate persons in developing countries and less educated persons in other countries can easily understand. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  9. Sandra Dollard permalink
    September 16, 2010

    interesting views here.

    Capitalist societies don’t works. There will always be crimes, always be hunger, always be people at the bottom of the pyramid. silly really to think that such as system can work.


  10. jordan 12 permalink
    October 31, 2010

    One of the important differences between a blog site in addition to a static websites would be the way people are capable of interact together with your articles. Having a static internet site it is just men and women studying phrases on a web page. After you possess a blog they are able to take a look at as well as remark back again! You ought to get that sort of interactive spirit heading so you can actually build a loyal readership with your website.

  11. ian smalley permalink
    November 2, 2010

    no child chooses to be homeless or impoverish, and this is the real tragedy. Unfortunately many parents force their childrewn into these positions by not taking responsibility for there own actions and recognizing the effect it has on there family. It heartbreaking to see a child go without

  12. Donald permalink
    January 30, 2011

    Great article!Thanks for the share.

  13. Darling Herng permalink
    August 8, 2011

    hmm , good article i think (: one word to describe –> Awesome !! (:

  14. homeless man permalink
    November 29, 2011

    i love the streets

  15. dad permalink
    November 29, 2011

    this is very powerful and i really hope the fix this problem amen

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