Jocelyn Tenorio, HOPES Development Manager
Across multiple sources, the philosophy of Restorative Justice (RJ) has a common theme of humanizing students, rather than punishing them if they do something deemed as wrong. Rather than using punitive measures, such as detention, that work to physically exclude students, Restorative Justice practices seek to engage students and understand the root of their behavior. When engaging with historically marginalized Black and Brown students, educators should embed Critical Race Theory (CRT) alongside Restorative Justice practices when approaching students so as to not retraumatize them. Scholars also highlighted that though these practices are often a response to specific incidents, educators must instill Restorative Justice into the school’s culture using a whole-school approach. Though Restorative Justice practices have proven to be successful, one theme that has been widely neglected in these conversations is disability justice. Additionally, one must ask the question— what happens when the teacher is the offender? How does disability intersect with race, and how can Restorative Justice serve to mitigate potential harm? Whole school models have the potential to come to even greater fruition through policies.
Critical Race Theory (CRT)
Brown (2021) argues that when educators use Restorative Justice practices, they need to engage with Critical Race Theory (CRT) and understand that Black and Brown individuals are largely suppressed in our society. Marginalized students already endure trauma and violence in their lives on a day-to-day basis, that be in the form of gang violence or microaggressions, therefore these practices must be trauma-informed so as to not retraumatize them. Comparably, Gwathney (2021) suggested a similar approach that applied Critical Race Theory (CRT) alongside ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences). A high ACE score (the more trauma experienced) indicates a higher risk for negative consequences, including low self-esteem and incarceration. In a case study done by Gwathney, they focused on following the journey of a Black, low-income student and found that his ACE score was an 8 out of 10 (Gwathney, 2021, pg. 351). Though assessments like these are helpful in teaching us how to approach trauma, we need to attribute the root of that trauma to certain systemic factors like racism.
One way that Sandwick and colleagues (2019) suggest educators incorporate Critical Race Theory into Restorative Justice practices is through anti-racist, anti-bias, and culturally relevant pedagogy (Sandwick et al, 2019, pg. 25). However, Restorative Justice runs the danger of being used as just another disciplinary practice towards Black and Brown students. At the root of it, Restorative Justice originates from indigenous cultures, directly countering the white supremacist idea of punishment, and should be used to combat those ideas.
Restorative Justice Practices Work
In a case study by Brown, they focused on the effects of disciplinary measures in two middle schools on students. Davis Middle School in Oakland is a racially diverse school with students with disabilities, which had Restorative Justice practices in place, and Southern Middle School in Florida stuck to traditional punitive measures, was predominantly Black, and 19% of their students were diagnosed with a learning disability. Southern Middle School’s “In-School-Suspension (ISS) rate was 32%, while the Out-Of-School Suspension (OSS) rate was 47%.” Meanwhile, Davis Middle School had one of the lowest suspensions rates in the entire district (Brown, 2021, pg. 11). Looking at the qualitative data, Davis Middle School students, particularly the ones that were Peer Mediators, were cited by teachers to be more empathetic and confident. Though coming into less contact with the punitive school system is a sign that Restorative Justice practices work, and is a sign that students are not being retraumatized, this study did not have any particular data on the way that these practices impact Black and Brown/and or students with disabilities.
Disability Justice and Educator Responsibility
Ramirez-Stapleton and Duarte (2021) urge educators to use a disabilities framework when practicing Restorative Justice. According to their study, people with disabilities are the “largest minority group, with approximately one fifth of the US population experiencing disability at some point in their lives. The majority of those disabilities, approximately 74% will not be visible (e.g. learning disabilities, chronic pain, or mental health)” (Ramirez-Stapleton and Duarte, 2021, pg. 12). Duarte (a white Jewish woman) was Ramirez-Stapleton’s (a Black and queer woman) student during her undergraduate year for a deaf course, and Duarte had previously emailed Ramirez-Stapleton regarding accommodations that would be needed. Duarte was Deaf+ so she needed to have handouts in a larger font, however, her professor failed to do this on several occasions. There was an instance where Duarte had become very frustrated and left the class because again, she was not provided with the proper font size. While for Duarte this was an escape from a traumatic experience, Ramirez-Stapleton questioned if it was because she was a professor that was Black and queer.
As the principles of Restorative Justice seek to include rather than to exclude students, disability framework which Ramirez-Stapleton and Duarte refer to as “‘understanding that all bodies are unique and essential, [and] that all bodies have strengths and needs that must be met” (para 13.), which includes not only students with disabilities and DDBDDHH [Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, Hard of Hearing] students, but also students of color, undocumented students, queer students, students are parents, older students, and many others.’” (Ramirez-Stapleton and Duarte, 2021, pg. 12). Just as Ramirez-Stapleton was in the wrong, there should have been a dialogue built on these foundations of Restorative Justice and the disability justice framework so as to validate the feelings of her student at that moment, but to validate her humanity.
Though this is only one example of the way that students with disabilities endure trauma, there are even more discrepancies when intersecting race and disability. According to a report done by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO): K-12 Education Discipline Disparities for Black Students, Boys, and Students with Disabilities, “Black students with disabilities and boys with disabilities were disproportionately disciplined across all six actions. For example, Black students with disabilities represented about 19 percent of all K-12 students with disabilities and accounted for nearly 36 percent of students with disabilities suspended from school (about 17 percentage points above their representation among students with disabilities)” (GAO, 2018). The more historically marginalized students with disabilities are filtered out from our education system by such measures, the more they are likely to come into contact with our prison system. To mitigate this, Restorative Justice practices should not center their disability as an issue, rather it should work towards creating an individualized plan to accommodate them. It would not only serve to buffer that potential for future incarceration, but these students would have access to the education they deserve, free of trauma.
School-Wide Restorative Justice
While there are scholars who believe that particular individuals should lead Restorative Justice efforts, as is the case with Gwathney advocating for more social workers (Gwathney, 2021, pg. 353), other scholars advocate for it to be a school-wide effort involving all educators. Sandwick and colleagues point out that Restorative Justice should aim to change the culture among the entire school, which means teachers and administrators using skills such as mindful listening amongst themselves (e.g. staff meetings). They would not only use Restorative Justice practices in times of conflict amongst their students, but model how Restorative Justice philosophies serve to foster healthy relationships. An example of a school-wide approach to Restorative Justice could have been Ramirez-Stapleton listening to Duarte’s individualized needs, apologizing, and doing better to validate the humanity and needs of all of her future students. Brown urges educators to use this model across all environments, which can include an everyday classroom setting, field trips, parent events, etc. That said, it should operate from a Critical Race Theory (CRT) and disability framework.
Current literature supports the notion that Restorative Justice practices and a school-wide approach are one way to advocate for Black and Brown students, however, more of this research should focus on the intersection between race and disability. It is crucial to include the voices of Black and Brown students with disabilities. The systems in place disregard the mental health and disabilities of Black and Brown individuals, deeming it as bad behavior, which results in punishment instead of care. In what ways can schools be resources for these communities to have these conversations? How can we work towards inclusive policies that incorporate Restorative Justice outside of schools, such as in our prison system?
Brown, Martha A. 2021. "We Cannot Return to “Normal”: A Post-COVID Call for a Systems Approach to Implementing Restorative Justice in Education (RJE)" Laws 10, no. 3: 68. https://doi.org/10.3390/laws10030068
Ramirez-Stapleton, L. D., & Duarte, D. L. (2021). When you think you know: Restorative justice between a hearing faculty member and a Deaf+ student. New Directions for Student Services, 2021, 11– 26. https://doi.org/10.1002/ss.20374
Gwathney, A.N. Offsetting Racial Divides: Adolescent African American Males & Restorative Justice Practices. Clin Soc Work J (2021). https://doi-org.proxy.libraries.rutgers.edu/10.1007/s10615-021-00794-z
Ramirez-Stapleton, L. D., & Duarte, D. L. (2021). When you think you know: Restorative justice between a hearing faculty member and a Deaf+ student. New Directions for Student Services, 2021, 11– 26. https://doi.org/10.1002/ss.20374
Sandwick, Talia, Josephine Wonsun Hahn, and Lama Hassoun Ayoub. 2019. “Fostering Community, Sharing Power: Lessons for Building Restorative Justice School Cultures”. Education Policy Analysis Archives 27 (November):145. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.27.4296.
Stephanie Salgado, HOPES Site Coordinator
Time and time again, migrants and asylum seekers are marginalized as their humanity is ignored and their stories go untold or are blatantly overshadowed by persistent negative stereotypes. Their journeys, which often start with hope for a better future, a seemingly simple dream, is a dangerous and deadly reality. In addition to risking falling prey to kidnapping and exploitation, among other horrible fates, while they await their claim, asylum seekers are in a legal and social limbo as their lives are essentially put on hold as they operate under the threat of deportation. On top of the psychological stress and financial burdens, migrants and asylum seekers are met daily with racism, xenophobia, and discrimination. While not everyone shares these experiences, it is a reality for many who are hoping for a better life as they make the life-altering decision to resettle in a different country.
For decades, an integral part of United States immigration law is the right to asylum. At the same time, it has been a touchstone of the U.S. political debate for decades as sizeable ideological differences in immigration goals collide. More recently, the city of Chicago has seen a surplus of migrants, mainly from South and Central America which has been met with mixed reactions by media and communities.
The first bus with migrants, sent from Texas under Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott, arrived on August 31st of 2022. Since then, as of August 2023, over 12,000 migrants have arrived in Chicago (Hernandez, 2023). The city’s government officials and local organizations have been scrambling to supply these individuals and families with necessities and place them in temporary shelters. However, it quickly became increasingly clear that the city is not able to provide the necessary support for these new arrivals as migrants, including pregnant women and children, are being forced to sleep at police stations and public parks as they await space in shelters. These living conditions are worsened as reports surface of infections and infestations, as well as expired food being provided (Schuba & Malagón, 2023).
One of these police stations is located near the West Side in the 12th district, where dozens of families sit outside with everything they own, some having left their country with only “the clothes on their backs.”(Perlman, 2023) Johon Torres, a Venezuelan who was moved to this station with his three daughters and niece details his current living conditions where, “every morning, they’re told to leave the station until 6 p.m. At night, they are allowed inside, sleeping along with other families in tight quarters. They haven’t taken a shower since they arrived at the station. Now, they wait for help from the city and for a bed of their own.” (Perlman, 2023)
As resettling migrants out of police station lobbies became a priority, temporary city-run shelters opened throughout the city including Daley College on the South Side and Wilbur College on the Northwest Side. These shelters, however, were quickly running out of resources and struggling to meet demand. More recently, hundreds of migrants have been moved from these temporary shelters and police stations to the Northside lakefront neighborhoods. Local organizations, volunteers, and mutual aid groups have extended a helping hand to migrants by providing pop-up showers, clothing donations, hot meals, recreational activities, transportation, health screenings, and other temporary resources (Nuques, 2023). While conditions have slightly improved, persisting are concerns surrounding availability of housing and additional resources as migrants continue to arrive.
Along with temporary housing services being provided to newly arrived migrants, children and teens are granted the opportunity to be enrolled in Chicago Public Schools. “Kids who just arrived today, yesterday and this week are registered for school and get all the supplies that they need to set them up and welcome them are here in Chicago,” said Kathleen Murphy, one of the volunteers from the mutual aid group, Todo Para Todos, that that helps migrant parents enroll their children (Medina & Ong, 2023). Twelve-year-old Yasmari Leon, a Venezuelan native who migrated with her father to Chicago and stayed at a temporary shelter, was able to finish out the last school year alongside other CPS children (Loria, 2023). Her father, Jackson Leon, expressed the importance of her enrollment when he said, “Here she can study again, learn English and learn another way of life.” (Loria, 2023)
Ensuring that these students will have the resources to succeed academically will prove to be difficult as schools prepare to welcome new students “in the thousands” of which many require translation services and other basic services. Nonetheless, a CPS team lead by the district’s language and cultural education chief, Karime Asaf, are striving to efficiently direct resources to schools receiving these new students (Issa, Loria, & Moreno, 2023). Families who haven’t enrolled in school are located and directed to schools who are most likely to have the programs and space to support the student.
Currently, there isn’t any clear long term plans that have been proposed to address this growing issue as efforts have solely focused on supplementing resources at the immediate moment. However, city officials need to administer long-term solutions and policies given that this issue will continue to persist if proper action is not taken. They should consider implementing a stable infrastructure for housing and long-term accessible resources (e.g., physical and emotional health, education, food access, clothing, and employment, among other resources) in communities as not only will it meet the needs of those that are just arriving but also for the overwhelming minority community in Chicago. Providing stability in these avenues for individuals and families is pivotal as it will provide a foundation by which they can begin to start their new life in this country.
Esperanza Health Centers
Chicago Public Schools Food Distribution Center
La Casa Norte
Hernandez, Acacia. “40 to 50 Migrants Arrive to Chicago by Bus Daily, Officials Say.” WTTW News, 4 Aug. 2023, https://news.wttw.com/2023/08/04/40-50-migrants-arrive-chicago-bus-daily-officials-say. Accessed 22 Aug. 2023.
Issa, Nader, et al. “CPS Juggles Funding, Bilingual Staff to Welcome Thousands of New Migrant Students.” Chicago Sun-Times, 20 Aug. 2023, https://chicago.suntimes.com/education/2023/8/20/23837103/cps-migrant-bilingual-students-public-schools. Accessed 22 Aug. 2023.
Loria, Michael. “Dozens of New Immigrants Joining Chicago Public Schools as School Year Nears End.” Chicago Sun-Times, 22 May 2023, https://chicago.suntimes.com/2023/5/22/23732754/migrants-chicago-public-schools-students-chldren-enrolled-lawndale-little-village. Accessed 22 Aug. 2023.
Medina, Andrea, and Eli Ong. “WGN-TV.” WGN-TV, 22 Aug. 2023, https://wgntv.com/news/chicago-news/chicago-non-profit-ctu-members-help-register-migrant-children-for-school/. Accessed 22 Aug. 2023.
Nuques, Katya. “Little Village Is a Model for How to Help Migrants in Chicago Build New Lives.” Chicago Sun-Times, 30 May 2023, https://chicago.suntimes.com/2023/5/30/23742465/migrants-chicago-little-village-community-organizing-katya-nuques-op-ed. Accessed 22 Aug. 2023.
Perlman, Marissa. “Chicago Police Station Houses Dozens of Migrant Families.” CBS Chicago, 9 May 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/chicago/news/chicago-police-station-migrants/. Accessed 22 Aug. 2023.
Schuba, Tom, and Elvia Malagón. “Immigrants Forced to Sleep on Floors, Eat Expired Meals at Shelters Run by Chicago Police.” Chicago Sun-Times, 1 May 2023, https://chicago.suntimes.com/2023/5/1/23707352/expired-food-infections-infestations-chicagos-police-stations-makeshift-shelters-migrants. Accessed 22 Aug. 2023.
By Shaw Qin, AmeriCorps State & National Member
In the past year, more than 8,000 migrants have arrived in Chicago seeking asylum and permanent residence (Bosman, 2023). Due to the city’s limited investment in resources and services for migrants, many are now staying in temporary shelters, police stations, and respite centers. At HOPES, we have also seen an increasing number of migrants in our programs, two of which now have 30% Spanish-speaking families. Amidst the public attention and debate, this migrant influx sheds light on an often invisible population and their experience – immigrants experiencing homelessness*.
* Unless otherwise specified, this article uses “immigrant” to refer to all types of immigrants, refugees, and international migrants, although the particular contexts of migration influence their housing experiences.
Across the globe, international migration has continued to expand in recent years. As of 2020, migrants comprise 3.6% of the world population, compared to 2.8% two decades ago (McAuliffe & Triandafyllidou, 2021). Among the countries migrants arrive in, the U.S. remains the primary destination, with over 51 million international migrants as of 2020. However, some of those migrants face precarious housing situations compounded by characteristics related to their immigrant status. According to a systematic review of immigrants’ housing experiences, immigrants’ barriers to stable and secure housing include interpersonal racism, past trauma and stress in their new environment, poor access to services (e.g., lack of awareness and language barriers), and limited financial resources (Kaur et al., 2021). Additionally, cultural backgrounds and differences may hinder immigrants from seeking housing services, such as immigrants not identifying as homeless (Couch, 2017) or cultural and religious incompatibility with housing service providers (Gilleland et al., 2016). Moreover, in the case of undocumented immigrants, their legal status strongly hinders their seeking services, due to their disqualifications in some public services and their fear of deportation if their status is revealed (Kaur et al., 2021). In summary, immigrants face various instabilities that could lead them to homelessness and barriers to services that could help them regain or maintain stability.
The intersection of immigration and homelessness also poses unique challenges to educating children with this background. Students’ experiences of immigration, acculturation, and homelessness can lead to mental health issues and stress (Khan et al., 2022), which may affect their general well-being and educational outcomes (Rossen & Cowan, 2014). Furthermore, previously discussed barriers to service access can also increase the difficulty for children to benefit from educational services related to homelessness. Although students are eligible for services under the McKinney-Vento Act regardless of immigration and documentation status (SchoolHouse Connection, 2022), immigrant families may not know its existence or their eligibility (Sills-Carter, 2019). Relatedly, schools and other service providers may be unable to identify those immigrant students experiencing homelessness and provide multilingual services in a culturally sensitive manner (Sills-Carter, 2019). Moreover, many immigrant families experiencing homelessness live in housing situations called “doubling up,” or multiple families sharing living space (Gilleland et al., 2016, p. 16). Consequently, these families may not consider themselves homeless (Couch, 2017) and have housing situations similar to multigenerational households typical in many immigrants’ cultures (SchoolHouse Connection, 2022). This increases the difficulty of providing educational services for their children.
Despite the barriers to housing stability, immigrants experiencing homelessness also display resilience in various ways, which should form the basis of serving this population. Multiple studies show that immigrants’ social capital (Im, 2016), including ethnic networks (Sills-Carter, 2019) and nurturing social and family connectedness (Khan et al., 2022), buffers the stress of housing insecurity. However, immigrants’ social and familial connections might not be enough to ensure housing stability unless the networks include ample knowledge or information on social support resources (Sills-Carter, 2019). In other cases, some immigrants do not have any social connections in this country. This is where service providers may come into the picture. Housing service providers can collaborate with the immigrant community and immigrant service providers to build cultural competence in serving the community. For educators, this can begin with collaboration among McKinney-Vento, Migrant Education, and English Language Learner programs in the school system and across community organizations with those specific focuses. This way, service providers can build on each others’ specialties. For example, programs on students’ homelessness may provide culturally-sensitive multilingual services after receiving training from the immigrant program, and immigrant programs may recognize students who could experience homelessness and make referrals. At HOPES, we strive to better meet the need of the migrant community by piloting a Spanish-only program and prioritizing recruiting bilingual site coordinators. Last but not least, service providers may encourage immigrants they serve to invite people in their social network to use their service if needed.
In conclusion, educating immigrant students experiencing homelessness is crucial for their success. However, there is a dearth of research centering on this intersection, particularly in the U.S. educational setting, due to immigrant homelessness’s more invisible nature (e.g., “doubling up” and being unwilling or unable to receive service). Although research in other countries and on other topics (e.g., healthcare and immigrant homelessness) can inform educators’ work in the U.S., more research is critical in helping service providers understand the communities’ needs and develop best practices to ensure all students receive adequate education and services.
SchoolHouse Connection: Strategies for Supporting Immigrant and Migrant Students Experiencing Homelessness.
National Center of Homeless Education: Translations of Homeless Education Materials
Bosman, J. (May 10, 2023). Open-armed Chicago feels the strains of a migrant influx. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/10/us/chicago-migrants-title-42.html
Couch, J. (2017). “Neither here nor there”: Refugee young people and homelessness in Australia. Children and Youth Services Review, 74, 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2017.01.014
Gilleland, J., Lurie, K, & Rankin, S. (2016). A broken dream: Homelessness & immigrants. http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2776890
Im, H. (2011). A social ecology of stress and coping among homeless refugee families [Doctoral dissertation, University of Minnesota]. University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy. https://hdl.handle.net/11299/116170
Kaur, H., Saad, A., Magwood, O., Alkhateeb, Q., Mathew, C., Khalaf, G., & Pottie, K. (2021). Understanding the health and housing experiences of refugees and other migrant populations experiencing homelessness or vulnerable housing: A systematic review using GRADE-CERQual. Canadian Medical Association Open Access Journal, 9(2), E681-E692. https://doi.org/10.9778/cmajo.20200109
Khan, B. M., Waserman, J., & Patel, M. (2022). Perspectives of refugee youth experiencing homelessness: A qualitative study of factors impacting mental health and resilience. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 13, 917200. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2022.917200
McAuliffe, M., & Triandafyllidou, A. (Eds.). (2021). World Migration Report 2022. International Organization for Migration (IOM), Geneva. https://publications.iom.int/books/world-migration-report-2022
Rossen, E., & Cowan, K. C. (2014). Improving mental health in schools. Phi Delta Kappan, 96(4), 8-13. https://doi.org/10.1177/0031721714561438
SchoolHouse Connection. (June 16, 2022). Strategies for supporting immigrant and migrant students experiencing homelessness. https://schoolhouseconnection.org/strategies-for-supporting-immigrant-and-migrant-students-experiencing-homelessness/
Sills-Carter, A. (2019). Accessibility to resources for homeless documented immigrant families: A case study [Doctoral dissertation, University of Missouri - Saint Louis]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.
What Goes Up, Keeps Going Up? The Damaging Effects of Wage Stagnation and Rent Hikes on Homelessness
When someone faces homelessness, there are often numerous hardships that have all contributed to the situation. Arguably chief among these hardships is lack of income due to stagnant wages or unemployment. Many Americans who live paycheck to paycheck are seeing that their wages are not keeping up with the continually rising cost of living in the United States. This problem is largely due to two concurrent damaging trends: government policies that have created stagnant wages and a general rise in rent and housing prices. In order to better understand how people can slip into homelessness, it's important to understand the myriad of causes behind stagnant wages and rising costs of living in the United States.
While the average wages of today fail to keep pace with the cost of living, this wasn’t always the case. Additionally - despite globalization and automation being blamed as primary causes for wage stagnation - there are many other factors at play that reveal a consistent history of corporate neglect for employees, lack of governmental intervention, and worries of stability among workers. One big way large corporations have contributed to stagnant wages is stock buybacks. A stock buyback is when a public company quite literally purchases its own stock from the open market, driving up the price of their stock which helps increase value for shareholders and executives at the company. This was considered market manipulation prior to 1982, when the SEC cut the regulation during Ronald Reagan’s presidency (AFR; Curry; Forbes). Since then, however, buybacks have become more common in recent years, even during the pandemic, increasing in “conjunction with rising executive compensation through stock-based pay packages” (AFR). According to Americans for Financial Reform, these buybacks “exacerbate the racial wealth gap, worsen economic inequality, and divert resources from the real economy which harms workers.”
When corporations use their profits to create value for stockholders, the only people who lose are the workers themselves, as those profits could have been used to increase wages, improve benefits, and strengthen workplace safety and general infrastructure. A 2021 study by the American Compass found that “that the number of companies that extracted more value from their firms (including share buybacks) than they invested in new capital expenditures had risen from only 6 percent of companies before 1985 to 49 percent of companies in 2017” (AFR). This means that since the Reagan administration SEC cut the regulation that prohibited buybacks, multiple generations of millions of American workers have lost out on significant increases in pay, job security, and workplace safety because of corporate greed. Further, stock buybacks are inherently discriminatory because of the historic lack of equity within the stock market - while “white families hold 90 percent of the stock market value, [...] black and latinx households each own only 1 percent of the total stock market value — figures that have not budged for the past 30 years” (AFR).
Looking at the government's role in this, we can see less and less intervention on behalf of the workers since the 1980’s. Between 1948 and 1970, worker productivity had a direct positive relationship with wages, so the more productive the American workforce was, the more benefits workers saw from their labor (EPI). This was due to specific policy that intentionally aimed to allow workers to directly benefit from their hard work. However, the late 1970’s and subsequent decades saw the stripping of these policies, forcing workers into very difficult positions. According to the Economic Policy Institute, “net productivity rose 61.8%, while the hourly pay of typical workers grew far slower—increasing only 17.5% over four decades” since 1979 (EPI). Due to these policy choices, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour has less purchasing power today than it ever has in the last 66 years, and roughly two thirds of American wages have not kept pace with inflation and rising living costs (Cerulo CBS). Further, Scott Lincicome - Director of General Economics at Cato Institute - states that “in case after case, you see that government policies were implemented to discourage labor dynamism and to discourage workers from moving to a better job or moving to a better town or city to improve their job prospects” (Lee NBC). The immense disparity between pay increases and rising costs of living is one of the main causes of homelessness, as it is both incredibly difficult and stressful to find and pay for housing when your income has not increased with the cost of living.
Much like wage stagnation, affordable housing availability has decreased despite worker productivity steadily increasing. Wage disparity coupled with increasingly less availability of affordable housing leaves many at extreme risk of becoming homeless (NAEH). And as the cost of affordable housing increases, a report from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty states that 1 in 4 renters in the U.S. have “extremely low income” by the metrics of United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (Reddin LC). Further, 11 million households spend more than half of their income on rent, and 38 million households spend more than a third of their income on rent (NAEH 2). Since so much of their income is used to pay for housing, these households are just one medical emergency or unexpected bill from becoming homeless (NAEH 2). One important tool available to people in these situations is the Housing Choice Voucher (referred to as HVC from here on out) program, created by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. However, HVCs are critically underfunded, and “increases in federal rental assistance have lagged far behind growth in the number of renters with very low incomes” (NAEH 2). And even though the HVC program is the largest rental assistance program in the country, only a fourth of eligible households actually receive help (NAEH).
Unfortunately, economic policies that originated in the 1970’s and 1980’s have effectively made it very difficult for more than half of American households to live comfortably in an economy that prioritizes corporations and stockholders over workers. Despite the existence of government tools and programs to help people pay for housing, wages and other social safety nets continue to fall behind with the rising cost of living, which leaves millions of people living at severe risk of potential and/or certain homelessness every year.
Affordable Housing. (n.d.). National Alliance to End Homelessness. Retrieved June 26, 2023, from https://endhomelessness.org/ending-homelessness/policy/affordable-housing/
firstname.lastname@example.org, G. R. (2019, September 29). Wage stagnation, lack of affordable housing greatest factors in homelessness. The Lawton Constitution. https://www.swoknews.com/special_reports/wage-stagnation-lack-of-affordable-housing-greatest-factors-in-homelessness/article_74e34411-f00a-5d73-ac15-49f134bf7723.html
Income. (n.d.). National Alliance to End Homelessness. Retrieved June 26, 2023, from https://endhomelessness.org/homelessness-in-america/what-causes-homelessness/incomeinequality/
Lee, J. (2022, July 19). Why American wages haven’t grown despite increases in productivity. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/07/19/heres-how-labor-dynamism-affects-wage-growth-in-america.html
Most U.S. workers say their pay isn’t keeping up with inflation—CBS News. (2022, September 14). https://www.cbsnews.com/news/wages-not-keeping-up-with-inflation/
Team. (2021, November 10). Fact Sheet: Tax Corporate Stock Buybacks that Enrich Executives and Worsen Inequality. Americans for Financial Reform. https://ourfinancialsecurity.org/2021/11/fact-sheet-tax-corporate-stock-buybacks-that-enrich-executives-and-worsen-inequality/
The Productivity–Pay Gap. (n.d.). Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved June 26, 2023, from https://www.epi.org/productivity-pay-gap/
What Is A Stock Buyback? – Forbes Advisor. (n.d.). Retrieved June 26, 2023, from https://www.forbes.com/advisor/investing/stock-buyback/
National Alliance to End Homelessness | https://endhomelessness.org/
Economic Policy Institute | https://www.epi.org/
Americans for Financial Reform | https://ourfinancialsecurity.org/
By Jake Schwartz, AmeriCorps VISTA Program Coordinator
The state of the healthcare system in the United States has long been the subject of intense debate - and oftentimes heavy criticism - for the perceived shortcomings of various aspects of healthcare that fail to adequately support patients. Among the most glaring issues within U.S. healthcare are the existing financial barriers for both primary care and emergency care, the variability of treatment outcomes across different socioeconomic levels, races, and genders, and the current lack of more accessible, non-traditional methods of receiving healthcare. While each of these facets can result in hardship for people from any walk of life, these negative effects are felt at a much greater intensity for those who face homelessness. When examining U.S. healthcare from a broad point of view, it becomes clear that these aforementioned issues - cost of care, treatment outcomes, lack of accessibility - serve to further the hardships of people who face homelessness.
When discussing the intersection of homelessness and healthcare, a good place to focus would be our nation’s waiting rooms. Primary care exists as a proactive measure to maintain good health in a variety of ways: routine check-ups to catch potential issues before they grow into larger problems, the ability to discuss possible concerns with a trusted professional, and overall maintenance for those with chronic conditions that require close management. These are all essential to one’s health, yet it remains incredibly difficult for those facing homelessness to access this kind of care. Even for those who are able to easily access healthcare, the ways in which this system is set up often lead to confusion and headache for those who simply want to seek some form of treatment. Between understanding the types of health insurance, eligibility for health insurance, co-pays, deductibles, out-of-pocket costs, and in- and out-of-network providers, there exists far too much complicated (and potentially expensive!) red tape that often prevents homeless patients from ever receiving any level of primary medical care (Gallardo et al., 2020).
The issues with the primary care system also occur in both directions: they close doors for those who seek out healthcare while also actively shutting the door on current patients who are in danger of facing homelessness. Widespread reviews of nationwide hospital procedures and patient outcomes demonstrate that many hospitals/clinics fail at correctly screening their patients for high risk of future homelessness and/or fail to act on the knowledge that a patient is actively facing housing instability (Fargo et al., 2017). Further research done on the ease of access to primary healthcare depicts a similarly worrying trend of preventative medicine being limited to those who are without any form of instability in housing, employment, or nutrition (Currie et al., 2023).
While the conversation of primary care revolves around what isn’t happening but what should be, the dialogue around emergency care concerns what is happening but what shouldn’t be. Due to the aforementioned issues with the primary care system, we understand now that there are scores of people who are in need of healthcare but often can’t receive it. What ends up happening in these situations is that in lieu of a doctor’s appointment, those without healthcare end up relying heavily on immediate/emergency care facilities, even for issues that may or may not even fall under the severity of actual emergencies (Vohra et al., 2022). This over-reliance on emergency departments for otherwise routine care sets off a chain of events that serve to harm both the facilities and, more importantly, the patients themselves. Higher use of emergency departments leads to less available bed-space to be used, requiring medical personnel to be increasingly strict in their triage and treatment decisions.
Additionally, those who face homelessness are far more likely than the average patient to be prematurely discharged, which results in lower overall general health and higher rates of readmission to emergency rooms (Jenkinson et al., 2020). These disparities are further intensified when understanding that those who face homelessness are most often those who tend to over-utilize emergency rooms (known pejoratively as “frequent-flyers”). As a result of being affixed this label of being “frequent flyers”, these patients report higher instances of being denied pain medication, being denied treatment, being discharged far too early, and struggling to be taken seriously by hospital staff (Moulin et al., 2018).
After reviewing the state of both primary and emergency care in a traditional healthcare setting, it begs the question of, what other alternative opportunities are available? One form of healthcare that has begun to spread across the country is street/community medicine, in which small groups of nurses and/or doctors set up small booths or work out of the back of a vehicle as a mobile clinic, in order to help provide services such as check-ups or vaccinations for populations that otherwise would not be able to get medical care. The benefits of such a system are clear to see: people facing homelessness who have access to some form of healthcare - whether it be through traditional institutions or community-based services - demonstrate far less instances of sickness, have higher rates of vaccinations, have far lower instances of mental illness, and self-report far lower instances of health-related anxiety and depression than those who do not have access to healthcare (Mares & Rosenheck, 2011). Whether it be from a comprehensive overhaul of existing healthcare structures in the United States or from a wider expansion of community-based medicine, or some combination of both avenues, it remains clear that there must be more work done at the institutional and provider level to better advocate for the health and well-being of our homeless population.
Care For Friends Chicago | 773.932.1010
Chicago Street Medicine | https://www.chicagostreetmedicine.org/contact.html Heartland Health Outreach | https://nhchc.org/contact/
Currie, J., Stafford, A., Hutton, J., & Wood, L. (2023). Optimising Access to Healthcare for Patients Experiencing Homelessness in Hospital Emergency Departments. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(3), Article 3. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph20032424
Fargo, J. D., Montgomery, A. E., Byrne, T., Brignone, E., Cusack, M., & Gundlapalli, A. V. (2017). Needles in a Haystack: Screening and Healthcare System Evidence for Homelessness. In Informatics for Health: Connected Citizen-Led Wellness and Population Health (pp. 574–578). IOS Press. https://doi.org/10.3233/978-1-61499-753-5-574
Gallardo, K. R., Santa Maria, D., Narendorf, S., Markham, C. M., Swartz, M. D., & Batiste, C. M. (2020). Access to healthcare among youth experiencing homelessness: Perspectives from healthcare and social service providers. Children and Youth Services Review, 115, 105094. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2020.105094
Jenkinson, J., Wheeler, A., Wong, C., & Pires, L. M. (2020). Hospital Discharge Planning for People Experiencing Homelessness Leaving Acute Care: A Neglected Issue. Healthcare Policy, 16(1), 14–21. https://doi.org/10.12927/hcpol.2020.26294
Mares, A. S., & Rosenheck, R. A. (2011). A Comparison of Treatment Outcomes Among Chronically Homelessness Adults Receiving Comprehensive Housing and Health Care Services Versus Usual Local Care. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 38(6), 459–475. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10488-011-0333-4
Moulin, A., Evans, E. J., Xing, G., & Melnikow, J. (2018). Substance Use, Homelessness, Mental Illness and Medicaid Coverage: A Set-up for High Emergency Department Utilization. Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, 19(6), 902–906. https://doi.org/10.5811/westjem.2018.9.38954
Vohra, N., Paudyal, V., & Price, M. J. (2022). Homelessness and the use of Emergency Department as a source of healthcare: A systematic review. International Journal of Emergency Medicine, 15(1), 32. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12245-022-00435-3
By LaFlanicea Branch, AmeriCorps State & National Member
Educational strategies are useful for supporting individuals experiencing homelessness and offer positive benefits for both children and their families. Struggles among each individual are not always easy to identify, especially with poverty or traumatic situations. Educational resources are important with designated plans to foster the needs of the students, as well as their parents, experiencing homelessness. The lack of education makes it hard to break the cycle and prevent homelessness in many cities across the country. The McKinney-Vento Act of 1987 protects the students rights for quality education and to inform the parents of state regulated requirements.
Students could possibly struggle with different types of problems due to homelessness, such as their academics, unstable living situation, poor communication skills or sense of belonging. Oftentimes, the students’ homelessness issues are not a major “focus” providing the indicated problem, in which needs addressing is housing. The McKinney Vento Act reinforced residency laws, transportation services, enrollment and placement issues, ensuring the students are not distracted from their academics. In the article, “The Impact of Homelessness on Education'' written by Noelle Withers, published in Volunteers of America, Greater New York, states “Children experiencing homelessness lack the stability and support necessary to succeed academically.” Educational programs provide safe and secure environments for students experiencing homelessness to improve communication skills and receive academic support. Tutoring sessions, after-school STEAM activities and group discussions are facilitated by retired teachers, college students and other professionals to students and families experiencing homelessness. Withers states, “In addition to academic impacts, disruption to a child’s education threatens their social and emotional development.” These factors make it harder on the students to feel accomplished in their educational success.
The partnership between the education system and homelessness organizations positively impacted the students everyday activities, which would potentially have an overall benefit. Public schools, community centers and shelters organize programs for students to continuously build and grow social and emotional development skills. Literacy based programs assist homeless families with the opportunity to voice their opinion, allowing them to address issues and concerns with educated, supportive staff. Decreasing the homelessness issues across the country will continue to change, yet the Department of Housing and Urban Development are working on addressing the issue.
Private donations fund communities and shelters with high quality recreation, family events, parent workshops and field trips. Families experiencing homelessness issues can attempt to tackle the battle with education, support, and ongoing participation. Available resource centers for housing, employment services, school placement, local benefits, and childcare and safety are offered to homeless families. Parents are encouraged to partner with organizations in the community that respond to issues surrounding homelessness, prevention, intervention and ending homelessness.
The Impact of Homelessness on Education | Volunteers of America. Volunteers of America: Greater New York. https://www.voa-gny.org/impact-of-homelessness-on-education
United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH). (2018, May 3). Article headline. United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH). https://www.usich.gov/news/strengthening-partnerships-between-education-and-homelessness-services/
Sosin, C. (2022, November 19). Homelessness, Lack of Education Reinforce Each Other, Chapin Hall Report Says. Youth Today. https://youthtoday.org/2019/11/homelessness-lack-of-education-reinforce-each-other-chapin-hall-report-says/
Educating Homeless Children by Leah Davies, M.Ed. https://www.kellybear.com/teacherarticles/teachertip55.html
By Sloane Shabelman, AmeriCorps State & National Member
With an annual increase in homelessness throughout the United States, one statistic must be discussed more: of the U.S.’s homeless population, 50% have spent time in foster care, according to the National Foster Youth Institute. If we as a nation are committed to fighting homelessness, we must take this statistic into account and figure out what changes need to be made to the foster care system to decrease its impact on homelessness.
A report by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago called “Missed Opportunities: Pathways from Foster Care to Youth Homelessness in America” dives deeper into the connection between foster care and homelessness. Three of the briefs’ main findings are as follows: between one-quarter and one-third of youth and young adults experiencing homelessness have a history of being in foster care, some young people perceive their entry into foster care as the beginning of their homelessness journey, and there are multiple pathways from foster care into homelessness (Dworsky et al., 2019).
One major pathway from foster care into homelessness is aging out of the system. Youth who remain in foster care after their 18th birthday (or 21st in some states, including Illinois) are emancipated and no longer legally in the care of the state. However, with often little money and familial support, it is estimated that 20% of these young adults become homeless as soon as they are emancipated, according to the National Foster Youth Institute.
The Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth, published in 2010, was one of the largest studies ever conducted on the experiences of young adults who have aged out of the foster care system. The study found that between 31-46% of their participants had been homeless at least once by the time they turned 26. As some states’ have increased the emancipation age to 21, homelessness has been delayed in many young adults who now have more time to learn self-dependency and life skills. However, the study showed that by age 23 they were just as likely to become homeless as those who aged out at 18, emphasized Dr. Mark Courtney, head publisher of the study. In an article by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Courtney shared a potential solution to this issue.
“[Housing] service providers need to account for the significant mental and behavioral health challenges facing these young people as a result of their trauma histories,” Courtney said.
There needs to be a more trauma-informed approach when it comes to housing, especially in cities and neighborhoods where homelessness and the number of children in foster care is at an all-time high. There must be more knowledge, understanding, and compassion among those who provide housing towards people looking for housing with less resources and privilege because of their background, such as young adults coming out of the foster care system. With increased education, specifically aimed at housing providers, about the foster care system, emancipation, and the trauma many foster children endure, they are less likely to end up on the streets and more likely to be on the path for a successful future.
Additionally, whether the foster care system ages the children out at 18 or 21, there needs to be more focus on providing more behavioral and mental health support from trained professionals both while the young adults are still in the system and once they have left. These children and young adults have often dealt with severe trauma that could put them at a disadvantage moving forward in their education, socialization, physical abilities, and later on, in their careers. Currently, so many of these children lack the proper resources, such as therapy and support groups to help them move forward, and those who do have these resources often find them to be inadequate and underfunded. If we ever want these children to have a chance at a successful life outside of the foster care system, it is crucial that we are giving them the proper support and tools they need to cope with all they have been through and become sufficient, capable adults.
It is important to emphasize that extra support should be provided to all foster children as they are preparing to leave the system, not just those who have aged out, as all children and young adults exiting the system are at risk of experiencing homelessness at some point. According to the Chapin Hall brief, “About half of the young people interviewed who spent time in foster care [and experienced homelessness] exited through reunification or adoption. These young people achieved permanency in the eyes of the child welfare system, but still found themselves on pathways into homelessness” (Dworsky et al., 2019).
The researchers at Chapin Hall shared that in addition to providing better services and programs to prepare the young adults for leaving the system, allocating more funds and resources to housing assistance for young adults leaving to live on their own could have a big impact on their potential for experiencing homelessness (Dworsky et al., 2019). Providing extra support both financially and mentally/emotionally for reunified and adoptive families could also prevent many children and young adults from starting on a pathway into homelessness, as many find themselves put in this position when their homes become unstable and unsafe..
All of these proposed solutions, while potentially very impactful if implemented, are merely responses to a crisis that needs to be prevented in the first place: children entering the foster care system. According to the Chapin Hall brief, most child welfare funding received by states has been allocated to help children after they have already entered the system as opposed to preventing them from entering at all (Dworsky et al., 2019). If more funds and resources are allocated to strengthening and stabilizing families and providing support to new or struggling parents, less children will enter the system and less of our country’s citizens will be at risk for experiencing homelessness.
In conclusion, with the proper support and help for children leaving the foster system, and with more funds allocated to prevent them from being removed from their homes in the first place, children and young adults all over the country will be better prepared for a successful future - one that hopefully does not include homelessness.
Child Welfare Information Gateway
Illinois DCFS: 800-232-3798 / 217-524-2029
Children’s Home + Aid Foster Care Services: 877-282-4274
To Report Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect: 1-800-25-ABUSE (252-2873)
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800.799.SAFE (800.799.7233)
National Parent Helpline: 855.4APARENT (855.427.2736) (available 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., PST, weekdays)
Dworsky, A. & Courtney, M. (2010). Extended Foster Care Delays but Does Not Prevent Homelessness. Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. Retrieved March 19, 2023, from https://www.chapinhall.org/research/extended-foster-care-delays-but-does-not-prevent-homelessness/
Dworsky, A., Gitlow, E., Horwitz, B., & Samuels, G. M. (2019, July). Missed opportunities: Pathways from Foster Care To Youth Homelessness in America. Missed Opportunities: Pathways from Foster Care to Youth Homelessness in America | National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth & Families. Retrieved March 19, 2023, from https://www.chapinhall.org/wp-content/uploads/Chapin-Hall_VoYC_Child-Welfare-Brief_2019-FINAL.pdf
Kuehn, B. M. (2022, October 24). Chicago professor shares findings from Foster Youth Study. SAMHSA. Retrieved March 19, 2023, from https://www.samhsa.gov/homelessness-programs-resources/hpr-resources/chicago-professor-shares-findings-foster-youth-study
National Foster Youth Institute. (2021, May 27). Homelessness & Foster Youth: The National Foster Youth Institute. NFYI. Retrieved March 19, 2023, from https://nfyi.org/issues/homelessness/
By: Ella Smith, AmeriCorps State & National Member
Trigger Warming: Mental Health and Suicide
The day-to-day lives of youth experiencing homelessness are stressful, plagued with inconsistency and often deeply traumatic. These factors inevitably take an immense toll on a child's mental health. Studies have concluded that homelessness itself can trigger a mental illness or worsen an already existing condition, even disregarding other factors such as poverty, serious medical conditions, social isolation and or other internal/external issues at play. Overall, those experiencing homelessness tend to have poorer mental health and higher prevalence of wellness issues than the general population due to living in a constant state of survival mode. With this, it becomes apparent just how prevalent the threat of depression and even suicide may become within this population. It can become easy to dismiss a young persons suicidal ideation as “childish behavior” or them “just wanting attention,” but it is crucial we treat these circumstances with the utmost care and compassion.
Among youth experiencing homelessness, the rates of depression are disproportionately high. More than 45% of youth experiencing homelessness struggle with depression, a rate 18 percentage points higher than their housed peers. Additionally, four out of five children who are experiencing homelessness have been exposed to at least one serious violent event by age 12, inevitably taking a tremendous toll on their mental health and cognitive functioning. In the United States, suicide has been found to be the leading cause of death in the homeless youth population with mortality rates due to suicide being 12 to 40 times higher than those in the housed population. A great deal of this has to do with factors typically at play before the child even realizes what’s happening to them. Some of these factors include, but are not limited to: unhealthy family relationships, neglect, poverty, life inconsistencies, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, histories of domestic violence and lack of emotional support. With all these factors, and more, at play, it grows increasingly evident how youth experiencing homelessness are disproportionately affected by depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, as well as other mental health issues.
Though there is no single-handed solution to reduce the rates of suicide and depression among youth experiencing homelessness, it has become more and more urgent that we work to strengthen the systems that support our youth and coordinate policies which target mental health, housing, income, employment, and access to health care. Some protective factors associated with suicidality among children and adolescents experiencing homelessness are providing positive coping strategies, a supportive school environment, consistent and positive role models, and community/after school enrichment programs which provide our youth a greater sense of purpose and community. Organizations such as Covenant House provide youth experiencing homelessness, victims of trafficking, and runaway youth with services for mental and physical health, addiction treatment, workforce support, legal help, and more in order for them to advance their goals and achieve sustainable independence. Due to the disproportionately high rates of suicide within this specific population of youth, understanding the emotional, physical, and societal factors that contribute to suicidal thoughts and actions amongst them must be understood. By fully comprehending these causal factors, resources to provide positive long term outcomes for youth experiencing homelessness can be better structured and more efficiently dispersed to the populations most in need of them.
If your child is in immediate danger of self-harm, please call 911.
Suicide Hotline: 988
Suicide Prevention Resources: https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/specialties/behavioral-health/for-families/suicide-prevention-resources
How to Talk to Children about Suicide—An Age-by-Age Guide: https://www.sprc.org/news/how-talk-children-about-suicide-age-age-guide
Barnes, Andrew J, et al. “Emotional Health among Youth Experiencing Family Homelessness.”
Pediatrics, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5869340/.
Bommersbach, Tanner J., et al. “Suicide Attempts and Homelessness: Timing of Attempts
among Recently Homeless, Past Homeless, and Never Homeless Adults.” Psychiatric Services, 29 Sept. 2020, https://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ps.202000073.
Canadian Population Health Initiative of the Canadian Institute for Health Information. “Finding
Home: Policy Options for Addressing Homelessness in Canada.” 2.3 Mental Health, Mental Illness, & Homelessness in Canada | The Homeless Hub, 2007, https://homelesshub.ca/resource/23-mental-health-mental-illness-homelessness-canada
Gerke, Jane. “Health Outcomes for Youth Experiencing Homelessness.” Homeless Youth
Connection, 4 Apr. 2022, https://hycaz.org/health-outcomes-for-youth-experiencing-homelessness/#:~:text=More%20than%2040%25%20of%20homeless,their%20housed%20peers%20(29%25).
Razza, Timothy, and Yuri Flasch. “Suicidality in Homeless Children and Adolescents: A
Systematic Review.” Science Direct, Pergamon, 11 Feb. 2021, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S135917892100029X.
By: Daniel Gantner, AmeriCorps State & National Member
In our modern world, un-housed citizens continually suffer from a lack of access to food, health care, and social services. Due to this lack of access, they are at a higher risk of developing serious health conditions, both physical and mental. On top of all of this, people experiencing homelessness routinely deal with explicit criminalization in their everyday lives. Homeless criminalization not only makes it incredibly difficult for unhoused people to live, but it also ensures that many will be trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of poverty, incarceration and forced relocation.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, the criminalization of homelessness “refers to measures that prohibit life-sustaining activities such as sleeping/camping, eating, sitting, and/or asking for money/resources in public spaces” (NCH). These measures manifest themselves in sweeps of homeless encampments where tents, medications and other personal items are confiscated or destroyed by local police forces (NCH). They also include ordinances that make it illegal for people to request money, and in some cases, even prohibit sharing food with homeless people (NCH). These laws often aim to “clean up” the image of a particular city or town by simply moving homeless people out of sight. For example, in 2022, New York City arrested over four hundred homeless people for “being outstretched” and taking up more than one seat on a train or bus (Heyward).
Unsurprisingly, criminalizing the lifestyles of people experiencing homelessness exacerbates the problem far more than it fixes it. For instance, having a criminal record in addition to not having a permanent address makes it incredibly difficult for unhoused citizens to find employment and housing, and often makes them ineligible for social services (NCH). Further, sending them to jail overburdens our already overpopulated criminal justice system. The punishment they unjustly receive for “crimes” costs more than finding them temporary housing, often up to three times as much (NCH). In some cities, the government will even go so far as to give people one way bus tickets to other states in attempts to cut down their homeless population. According to The Guardian, “people are routinely sent thousands of miles away after only a cursory check by authorities to establish they have a suitable place to stay once they get there. Some said they feel pressured into taking tickets, and others described ending up on the streets within weeks of their arrival” (The Guardian). Despite the immediate financial and social drawbacks of criminalizing homeless populations, cities all across the country choose to prioritize the immediate physical appearance of the city over the lives of the actual people who live there.
Issues related to the ongoing criminalization of homelessness make it clear that law enforcement is not an effective tool to solve this challenge, as it instead perpetuates the cycle of homelessness and poverty. The current “solutions” of forcefully relocating or throwing un-housed citizens into the criminal justice system not only dehumanizes them, but further upholds the stigma that they are criminals. In order to effectively help people experiencing homelessness, our government must focus on providing them tangible relief and services in order to create better lives for themselves.
Heyward, Giulia (2022, November). NYC Mayor Adams faces backlash for move to involuntarily hospitalize people. Retrieved from www.npr.org/2022/11/30/1139968573/nyc-mayor-adams-faces-backlash-for-move-to-involuntarily-hospitalize-homeless-pe
Outside in America team (2017, December). Bussed out. www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2017/dec/20/bussed-out-america-moves-homeless-people-country-study
NCH Civil rights. nationalhomeless.org/issues/civil-rights/
By: Chase Garland, Site Coordinator
When defining what considers a child homeless, it comes from the “means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence that includes the following: sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing and economic hardship. Children who have a nighttime residence or regular sleeping accommodation. Children who are living in public spaces, or substandard housing. These children qualify as homeless because their circumstances are described in clauses” (NCFH 2015). Although there is a high rate of students who have children who experience homelessness, the number is also high for children who are homeless and have a disability. The term “child with a disability'' means the child has intellectual disabilities, hearing impairments, speech or language impairments, serious emotional disturbance, autism, or a specific learning disability”(NCFH 2015). Due to poor health conditions such as poor nutrition and exposure to health hazards can disrupt a child’s physical, cognitive, and emotional disabilities.
Due to the unsafe atmosphere of the household, it can be a challenge to determine what is the true factor that is contributing to the child’s disability due to the unstable condition. According to the National Center for Homeless Education, “19% of homeless students have some form of disability that compares to 14% of housed students in 2022”. (NCHE 2022) However, did you know they also reported that homeless students who receive IEPs early are more likely to remain with their grade level peers and achieve grade proficiency”.(NCHE 2022) The integrity of teachers and administration critically analyzing their IEPS plays a significant role in the child’s success in school. Homeless students whose IEP were not taken seriously are more likely to end up suspended than those who received their IEPs earlier.
Even though the issue is ongoing and not enough is being done in order for these children to receive a better quality in education, it means as a society including parents, teachers, friends, or close family should do whatever it takes to ensure the federal government is keeping track of the individual categories that homeless students have and provide additional services in schools that are free. According to the Education Week Resource Center, “They found that of the schools that require the federal law to serve homeless students with disabilities, less than one quarter of districts receive federal funding to assist in that effort” (EWRC 2018). Depending on the child, there can be considered having a specific learning disability versus having an impairment that requires a different type of support. Homeless children who have a disability are currently facing consistent challenges to make sure they get the help they need.
What can we do now to support our children with disabilities whose lives matter more just as much as children without disabilities? We can start providing services in school to support special education targeted for homelessness such as intervention services with behavior management plans for teachers to start with, priority seating in the classroom, creating a plan that eliminates social class expectations, assigning a peer mentor, regular meetings with parents or guardian, extra homework help and time to complete assignments, and providing free resources for children receive textbook, school supplies, food pantries, and clothing.
Council for Exceptional Children (CEC): dedicated to improving educational outcomes for
individuals with exceptionalities, students with disabilities, and/or the gifted.
National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE): established in 1938 to promote and support education programs and related services for children and youth with disabilities in the United States and outlying areas.
Parent Training and Information Centers: serve families of children and young adults from birth to age 22 with all disabilities: physical, cognitive, emotional, and learning. They help families obtain appropriate education and services for their children with disabilities; work to improve education results for all children; train and inform parents and professionals on a variety of topics; resolve problems between families and schools or other agencies; and connect children with disabilities to community resources that address their needs.
Coffey, Donavyn. “Disabilities Sometimes Go Undiagnosed in Homeless Students Targeted
by New Federal Education Funds, Experts Say.” Youth Today, 19 Nov. 2022,
Equity and Assessment: Moving towards Culturally Responsive Assessment - Ed.
Weiss, Thomas C. “Homeless Children with Disabilities in America.” Disabled World,
Disabled World, 9 Oct. 2021, https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/children/homeless-kids.php.