Many of the devastating effects of homelessness are derived from the desperation of the situation. Destitution and poverty lead parents to the brink of bare-bones survival. Food is found in dumpsters. Baths are taken in the local river bank, if, they are taken at all. But, the nights are the worst because finding somewhere safe and warm to sleep is next to impossible. Many homeless shelters are overcrowded, or they don’t allow children. Families don’t want to split up, so they trudge on hoping for a miracle. Some might believe this can’t happen in a country so well off. The reality is that it happens every day, and those hit the hardest are children. Though homelessness affects children in a multitude of ways, this article will focus solely on the impact it has on their education.
Homelessness and Depression
It is hard to focus on your math assignment when you are exhausted from not getting any sleep. The snickers and bullying from fellow classmates because you are wearing the same torn clothing day after day doesn’t help either. These things can put a child at risk for depression, which contributes to them falling further behind in school. Because of this, one of the first things educational staff must be able to do is identify the signs of depression to determine if the child might need a referral for child counselling. Depression can cause outbursts of crying, weight loss, and feelings of isolation and worthlessness. Child counselling can help them to work through their feelings and get them the treatment that they need.
A Safe Place to Go
Lack of intelligence isn’t always the cause of academic delays. Often, homeless children have nowhere to do their homework or study. Providing a safe, secure location where their parents can join them to get out of the cold can remedy this. If the school can’t be open after hours, suggest a local library that they can go to. If there isn’t one available, ask a local shop in town if they have a spare room that can be used. Bring something warm for them to drink and a snack if you can. This will encourage them to come. Ask other teachers to join you to help tutor them too.
It is important to remember that homeless children with academic delays are already distressed about the situation they are in. So, never mention anything regarding their homelessness in front of other children. Be discreet in your intervention methods, but be firm in your expectations of them working at improving their grades. Also, don’t be afraid to contact their parents to refer them to York Region Psychological Services that can give them the help that they need.