When people think of homelessness, they often think of adults who beg on the streets. This is only a portion of the homeless community. There are many individuals who fell too far into debt, lost a spouse, are veterans, and are faced with homelessness because they can’t find work, became disabled, or something else. Many of these people have families and children that they need to support. Some kids run from home or can’t stay at home because it is unsafe. What happens to those children?
Homelessness, in the simplest terms, refers to the state of not having a home. One in thirty children in the United States have been or are homeless. This is a growing number. In fact, homeless families make up approximately 40% of the entire homeless community. This is due to many things, and people who cannot find affordable housing add to this number a lot. Many homeless children have two working parents, but eventually, even their parents’ combined incomes were not enough to make ends meet and the family was forced to vacate. Another common occurrence, perhaps more common, is a single mom with one or more children. She either cannot sustain her family and thus becomes homeless, or in many cases, she and/or her children are abused and they leave their house. Sometimes the mother doesn’t leave, but the kids realize the unsafe and unstable home situation and leave. 1.6 million kids each year experience homelessness because they are kicked out or abused because of their LGBT orientation. The LGBT homeless youth make up 40% of the young and homeless population. There are so many things that happen to children who don’t have warm homes; imagine the psychological, emotional, and physical turmoil of being on your own in a very dangerous world. An average of one in five homeless children in America are victims of trafficking. 40.5% of homeless females and 25.3% of homeless males are in sex trafficking. According to a study, 15% of homeless kids are trafficked for sexual services, 7.4% are trafficked for labor, and 3% are trafficked for both sexual services and labor. The LGBT homeless youth are even more likely to be trafficked for sex slavery.
Some kids are roped into sex work as well. These kids are often searching for any grain of kindness, and when someone seems to be kind, offers them work, and guarantees money, it is easy to fall into that trap. Sometimes the kids go willingly because the work guarantees money, food, and shelter. They go in thinking it will be a temporary fix to their problems, and once they have enough money saved, they’ll leave. The problem is that pimps do not make leaving easy at all. They threaten kids with debts they don’t really owe, tell them they can’t make it, tell the kids they are needed, and manipulate them by playing other psychological games. Even if the children leave, many of them return because that lifestyle is what they know and are used to. It’s hard enough getting out of sex work as an adult, but harder even for a child who doesn’t have a concept of the real world.
Kids who survive homelessness are more likely to have emotional, and health issues. They are more likely to suffer from severe depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They might even become suicidal and are more likely to catch illnesses and diseases such as HIV and STDs. This is due to things like drug abuse, rape, or sexual exploitation. Many young women become pregnant because of their abuse. Even if a child does not fall prey to sexual or labor abuse, about fifty percent of them drop out of high school. This makes it harder for them to finish high school, get a desired degree, or find a job.
There are so many things that can happen to children who are homeless. The effects often last a lifetime. If you ever find a child who is homeless and are unsure of what to do, you can call (800) 308-2145 or inform that individual about the Crisis Intervention Program . For more information on helping the homeless community, visit this page.