Report: Families, children swell ranks of homeless
November 20, 1999
From Correspondent Frank Buckley
NEW YORK (CNN) -- While many people have benefited from the strong economy, children and families make up the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, according to the the Institute for Children and Poverty.
A new national study from the institute offers a disquieting look into the bleak lives of children without homes. Many lag behind in school. One in three suffers from asthma. And one in 10 has witnessed a stabbing, shooting, rape or murder.
"There is a pattern of failure for what's happening with poor children here," said Ralph Nunez, president of the New York- based institute, which conducts research on the causes of family homelessness.
Homeless children often lack proper care, according to the study, which surveyed families in 24 U.S. locations. According to the study, 19 percent experience hunger, and 47 percent are victims of domestic violence.
The children live nomadic lives, according to the report, drifting from motels to campgrounds to cars to the homes of relatives. They move at a rate 16 times greater than the average U.S. family. The constant movement takes a toll.
According to the study: Twenty percent repeat a grade, twice the rate of all children. Twenty-six percent suffer a decline in health. And 39 percent suffer emotionally from their experiences.
"It's tied into so many areas: Health, hunger, schooling, the family structure, that this is something that is going to be catastrophic unless somebody pays attention to this," Nunez said.
Esperanza Febles, who lives in a shelter with her three children, knows that the experience has made her children suffer, including psychologically.
"None of them go to the library because they are so embarrassed to walk home with their friends, and know that they go inside a shelter," she said.
Her 13-year-old daughter, who requested not to be identified, said she has trouble focusing on schoolwork.
"I used to be like an 87 average; now I'm a 64 average," the girl said. "My Mom received my report card. It was my lowest report card I've ever gotten because I'm not concentrating well."
The researchers say 1 million children are homeless in the United States, and child advocates think the issue should become a national priority.
Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund said her goal is that "we in this wealthy nation are going to see that every child has a place to call home, enough to eat, a place to sleep and get them all ready for school to get an education so they can be productive future citizens."
Bradley offers plan to raise 3 million out of poverty
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