Being in school is important to these children. The thing that’s unique about education, particularly for homeless children, is that it’s the one opportunity to gain something that no one can ever take away from them. They can’t be evicted from their education. In addition, school is one of the few points of stability and help for these young people which can provide continuity, meals, basic health care, as well as the education they need for a chance at a better future.
A homeless child might move three or four times in a year, and studies show that every time he changes schools he falls behind by about six months. Many other studies suggest that children who can generally depend on a certain level of predictability in their lives perform much better in school than their counterparts, and go on to hold down higher-paying jobs.
Children who live in poverty often have higher-than-normal levels of stress hormones, which can actually warp the architecture of the brain in ways that make these children more vulnerable to anxiety and depression and more prone to poor decision-making, and thus more likely to remain poor and to raise kids who will themselves remain poor. Bringing up a child in the chaotic conditions of poverty must be something like building a skyscraper on quicksand. Instability begets instability begets instability.
Providing for these kids is not just work for our ministry to do – it’s about the work of this entire community. We, as a community need to fully understand what homelessness does to a child and how it can affect them for life. Clothing and food can no longer just be something that we want to do on a volunteer basis for the community. Now it’s a mandatory thing that we as a community must do because of the need that we can see in these families and in these kids.