Effects of Homelessness

Impact of Homelessness on a Child’s Education
Homelessness causes a disruption in a child’s education. The impact of family mobility on a student’s education is the greatest barrier to school success. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's 2015 Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Programs Homeless Populations and Subpopulations report for Pennsylvania, from the Point in Time Survey conducted on January 28, 2015, there were 4,272 children under the age of 18 identified as residing in emergency shelter or transitional housing, or living in unsheltered conditions.

By contrast, during the 2014-15 program year, Pennsylvania’s Education for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness Program reported 26,273 students being served by the program. Twenty-four percent of the students enrolled that year changed schools at least once. Changing schools means adapting to new teachers, schedules, friends and many other factors. Performance may slip until the child adapts to new settings. In addition, research has shown that other students in school not experiencing mobility are negatively impacted by the mobility of their peers. The attention of the child’s caretaker, out of necessity, may center on food, clothing, shelter and safety to the exclusion of education. This may add to the disruption of the child’s education.

Like any other child experiencing disruption in their life, children experiencing homelessness need support, help with adjusting to new teaching styles, assistance with meeting assignments, and some basic things like school uniforms or fees for class trips, etc. 

Things You Can Do
As an educator you can make a difference in the success of these children. They may need an advocate in school. Recognize the importance of a caring environment as the foundation for academic success. Strengthen positive connections with families and form partnerships to develop and implement programs that will nurture and reinforce resiliency in children. Learn how Title I and other federal prevention funds can be used to provide needed services for children experiencing homelessness. Take every opportunity to move from isolated programs with limited outreach to coordinating holistic services for children and youth experiencing homelessness.