Posted on October 27, 2010
This week’s blog was written by Koury Wilson, one of VSH’s fall communications interns.
The beginning of the millennium witnessed an economic crisis in the US that has forced thousands of families around the country into homelessness. A lack of affordable housing, government support, and an increase in foreclosures put financial and emotional strain on those trying to support their families. This is particularly true for many who are raising their children alone.
According to the 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR), on a single night there were 643,067 total homeless persons across the country. Of those, two-fifths (37 percent) were part of a family, and most (79 percent) were sheltered in emergency shelters or transitional housing.
Unfortunately the lack of financial stability is only one of the many problems families face when struggling to maintain shelter. It’s found that homelessness “…can affect how children learn, can lead to depression, and can be misdiagnosed as learning disabilities.” Many families also face the possibility of separation and foster care when the government is involved.
The 2010 Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness states, “each year, 30,000 youth ages 16 and older transition from foster care to legal emancipation or ‘age out’ of the system. One quarter of former foster youth experience homelessness within four years of exiting foster care.”
Recent studies of teenage homelessness have chronicled even well-to-do school districts that are experiencing a surge of students who have reported becoming homeless. South Chandler, Ariz. found of their 38,000 students, 563 don’t have permanent housing.
“We have families who have lost everything, dads who had (investment) properties that didn’t go well, an engineer who hasn’t been employed for a year,” Mundle said. “This isn’t your poor immigrant.”
A statewide Summit on Family and Youth Homelessness took place on Oct. 21 at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden to create a plan of action in how to move Virginia forward in ending homelessness statewide and in localities. The event provided a series of 10 sessions held throughout the day discussing topics such as the role of faith communities in preventing homelessness and implementing financial strategies.
Virginia Supportive Housing plays an important role for families in central Virginia. VSH owns four supportive housing properties located in Richmond’s Cary Street, Highland Park, and Southern Barton Heights neighborhoods that house 16 families with children who are transitioning from homeless shelters and transitional housing programs. Some may see this as a small step compared to the thousands of homeless families nationwide, but VSH continues to be a model in housing services that have proven effective.
The federal plan has a goal of ending homelessness for families, youth, and children in ten years. However, even as the economy and the job market slowly improve, many are still struggling to find their way back on their feet, and it’s a crisis that continues to grow. Given the strong relationship between family & youth homelessness and adult homelessness, this issue has the potential to undermine all our existing efforts. It must become a top national priority. As long as there is still open discussion of a resolution and programs like VSH that prioritize to help prevent and support those experiencing homelessness, this problem has the potential to be eradicated.