Homelessness- Causes, Consequences, Policy issues

Homelessness- Causes, Consequences, Policy issues

Homeless children and youth are into two categories that include children and youth classified as unaccompanied and those who experience family homelessness. The education sector contains a wide and comprehensive definition of homeless children and youth founded under the McKinney-Vento Act. The act defines homeless children and youth as those children with unstable, in consistence place to stay at night (Aratani, 2009).


Homelessness is a sign of depravity from basic human needs. While other kinds of deprivations such as famine majorly happen due to poverty and economic insecurity, elements causing homelessness are multi-faceted; they vary depending on the type of homelessness that children experienced. These elements consist of home violence, lack of social support and affordable housing, behavioral health, economic insecurity, and lack of involvement in the child wellbeing (Aratani, 2009).

Since 1993, the world continues to witness a decline in the number of affordable housing units. This is because of the loss of older, lesser-quality apartment in the private market. Within 2005, 40% cases of households with children from birth to17years had the following housing problem: overcrowded housing, physically inadequate housing or exorbitant cost of housing (Aratani, 2009). Today, households spent over half of their income for rent payment. The inadequate affordable rental housing with current economic downturns is most likely to increase the number of homeless children and youths. Since the beginning of the 2007 recession, the incidences of unemployment have been on the rise, and the rate is even higher among those individuals with casual or blue-collar jobs. This makes low-income households vulnerable to layoffs. Statistics indicate that 80% of homeless households with children come from female-headed families, and 54% of children from low-income households are partial orphans (Eberle et al, 2001).

Poor behavior health in families is the cause of children running-away and becoming homeless. Higher exposure to trauma or violence is the cause of behavior problems among homeless children and youth. Unaccompanied children have a higher likelihood of having a depression that can lead to psychological or drug abuse problems, unlike accompanied children. These homeless children record more cases of behavioral problems than their counterpart. Home violence has great influence on whether children become homeless or not. A study on women with children in domestic violence and homeless shelters exhibited same features, including their exposure to traumatic experiences. In addition, more children in homeless programs and on runway reported emotional or physical abuse from their family members, especially their biological mothers (Aratani, 2009).


A strong foundation of family tie mostly correlates with educational success of children and youths. Equally, homelessness contributes to poor educational performance by children. Comparison between homeless and non-homelessness children revealed that homeless children are more likely to report poor grades than their counterparts. They change schools frequently, are ever absent while others engage in other immorality. This dwindle their chance of succeeding academically and end-up scoring grades that are below average, and some even fail to complete their high school education (Aratani, 2009).

In the homeless shelters, children feed on foods that are below the standard nutritional recommendations, leading to insufficient intake of vital elements such as magnesium, vitamins, iron and zinc. More studies show that a number of children in homeless shelters are overweight or at risk of becoming obese as a result of improper food consumption. Furthermore, this class of children is at a higher risk of contracting diseases such as STDs beside teenage pregnancy. Therefore, homeless children face severe food insecurity which affects their health (Aratani, 2009).

Homeless children may decide to involve in delinquent survival means while on the streets. Factors accounting for this include limited legitimate means of survival, and those with often runaway incidences are more vulnerable to get involve in criminal survival means such as shoplifting, drug selling and other unlawful deeds. A study done in Canada revealed that the longer a child experiences homelessness, the higher the likelihood of him/her committing an offense. They are also at risk of contracting mental health disorders because of the traumas they undergo. The trauma may arise due to sexual or physical victimization, and even some, due to the pressure of being homelessness, end-up committing suicide (Aratani, 2009).

Policy Issues

Over the last decade, homelessness has been a social issue in most developed countries, an issue that is now under research by both policy and research communities. The initial debates circumnavigate around socio-structural causes such as poverty, changing labor, housing system and the state of welfare, and psychological and personal factors mirrored on individual agency, including alcohol addiction, drug abuse, not to forget behavioral and social issues. However, none of the approach has correctly identified the full intricacy of homelessness (Eberle et al, 2001).

Therefore, effective programs and practice policies should include combinations of early intervention, crisis interventions, preventions, and long-term support models directed towards independence. They should support provision of services that promote skills that will result to social competency, secure a home and end social exclusion. Effective practice policies should also be built on sufficient understanding of both primary causes and immediate events that can prompt homelessness, and correspond with the continuum of individual and structural issues. There is a possibility that the prompts and causes can be related with a relevant policy approach (Minnery & Greenhalgh, 2007).

Therefore, homelessness policies need to tackle prevention through a series of social and welfare issues. Similarly, it should address certain accommodation challenges, provide support and care as well as to encourage reintegration of marginalized groups and individuals. They should be innovative and tackle both social and the shelter needs of children while clearly incorporating integration across relevant programs, and aiming at building independence through capacity building (Eberle et al, 2001).

Current homelessness policies in U.S. include Housing subsidy, the McKinney-Vento Homeless assistant act, Chafee Foster Care Independent act, the Runway and Homeless Protection Act, and the 34CFR Part 200: “Improving the academic achievements of the disadvantaged” (Unicef, 2007). In summary, homelessness in children has denied them their fundamental rights, especially, the right to access quality education.


Aratani, Y. (2009). Homeless Children and Youth: Causes and Consequences. National Center for Children in Poverty. Retrieved from http://www.google.co.ke/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CDwQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Facademiccommons.columbia.edu%2Fdownload%2Ffedora_content%2Fdownload%2Fac%3A126258%2FCONTENT%2Ftext_888.pdf&ei=NiV0UoDfM4Gm0AXYlICYDw&usg=AFQjCNF3U0zDSpRC1Uox9CzzcmaxkgnT_g&sig2=-tfwEXket9wUUNgX2uno3w.

Eberle, M. et al. (2001). Homelessness: Causes & Effects. Retrieved from http://www.housing.gov.bc.ca/pub/Vol2.pdf.

Minnery, J. & Greenhalgh, E. (2007). Approaches to Homelessness Policy in Europe, the United States, and Australia. Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 63(3). pp. 641-655.

Unicef. (2007). A Human Rights-Based Approach to Education for All. Retrieved from http://www.unicef.org/publications/files/A_Human_Rights_Based_Approach_to_Education_for_All.pdf.