The Face of Homelessness in the United States in 2014
“Homeless”, “Homeless Veterans”, “Families”, “Homeless Students”, “Liz Murray”
“Poverty”, “Homelessness”, “Homeless Students”
31 Pages total
(This unit includes 19 Power point slides)
I have also posted a companion product including 12 pages of MicroSoft Word documents, and a reproducible essay assignment with a ten-item sources list (including hot links to videos, organizations, and laws). The unit also includes the essay assignment and two sample essays written spring 2014 by my community college and advanced placement high school students).
This is a highly personal issue for many of our economically at-risk students. I personally am aware of five homeless students—including a veteran—enrolled in my own classes. One of the two student sample essays I have included speaks to the near homelessness of his family. The college I teach at in north central Florida has a ‘food pantry’ and a near-free low cost clothing exchange. Our local county public school district operates ‘feeding sites’ during the summer break to provide meals to low-income students and their siblings. During the academic year our county has implemented a voluntary “Backpacks for Kids” program which sends home food for the weekends so public school children/students do not go hungry.
This unit explains how the ‘face of homelessness’ in the United States has drastically altered since 2008 (the beginning of the “Great Recession”). Nearly 3.5 MILLION Americans are homeless today. Homelessness has tripled in the U.S. since the 1990s. In part this is aggravated by home foreclosures, shortage of affordable rental housing—and a decrease in public housing funding by nearly half since 1980. The fasting growing sector of American homeless (35% of the homeless) in 2014 are intact two-parent families (with children). When shelters are available; most require families to be ‘split up’ by gender in order to receive services and shelter.
Sixteen MILLION American children are homeless, with a THIRD of all homeless children living in Florida—my home state. More than a thousand homeless children live in Osceola County within miles of the international vacation attractions of Disney World. Two of the videos (Hard Times Generation and Kids and Parents Living in Cars from Sixty Minutes—are listed in the sources and posted on youtube.com). They profile these children and their families in 2012 and 2013.
Many homeless children are public school aged and face tremendous academic and economic challenges because of their living situations. Homeless students have twice the rate of learning disabilities as others, with 21% repeating a grade each school year. Because of their transient lifestyle to survive, more than forty percent of all homeless students attend more than one school each academic year, while 28% attend more than three.
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, a federal law intended to protect and provide flexibility (and social services) to homeless public school children, is explained in this unit. The HERO (Homeless Education Research Outreach) Program in Nashville, TN, a pioneering ‘best practices’ program to help homeless students and their families, is also highlighted.
I have also included links to videos about the life and struggles of Liz Murray, a New York City homeless teen, who failed out of high-school. Her parents were both drug addicted, and subsequently died of AIDS. She turns her life around to complete high school, get a scholarship to Harvard University, and graduates from Harvard in three years. She is now an advocate for homeless issues, and a motivational speaker. The 2003 movie Homeless to Harvard is available on youtube (in parts) and online book/media sellers.
Economic recovery, even full-time low (often minimum) wage jobs have NOT been enough to help many homeless families get off the streets, out of temporary hotel transitional housing, or out of shelters. The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates a minimum wage person would have to work eighty-nine hours a week to afford a two bedroom apartment for his or her family. Nearly thirteen percent of urban homeless families have a full-time (but low-wage) earner head of household. Some states have adopted innovative programs to expand affordable housing. The Connecticut Affordable Housing Project is highlighted in this unit.
Thirteen percent of the homeless are honorably discharged military veterans. More than 100,000 veterans are homeless each night. Many are young, often with complex medical, substance issues, physical disability, or post-traumatic stress disorders. One out of four of the homeless are returning American veterans. The National Alliance to End Homelessness provides state specific data comparing homeless veterans.
I have included the MS Word Homelessness essay I assigned to my community college students spring term 2014, along with two sample actual student essays. The revised essay assignment has ten ‘hot link’ (URL) sources to help students. (These can also be useful in expanding or customizing your own lecture and discussion on this topic.)