Homeless in America

A Qualitative Analysis of Homeless Children in the US

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A comprehensive study of homeless children as they relate to homeless families, indicates a number of findings that suggest an overwhelming negative effect on the child. Children living under these conditions will experience much higher numbers of psychosocial issues including specific deficits with inter and intra personal relationships. Exploration of these problems give a rather convoluted picture and approach to the issue.


Many people find the idea of being homeless hard to grasp, obscure, but for some it's very much a reality. According to Child Trends Databank there are a total of 1.4 million displaced children across the US (Child Trends Databank 2015).

This is a complex issue with many variables and circumstances. "Doing what you have to do" is not an excuse that dismisses the neglect of a child; those children need immediate extraction. On the other hand, there are parents going through financial crisis, those who don't have support. The people denied sanctuary at a shelter who have nowhere else to go. The people who lost their jobs and are out of options. How do we provide them with the support they need without criminalizing their experience by taking their away their kids and ultimately forcing them to avoid "help."

Hard Times Generation: Families living in cars


Research on this matter was conducted on a number of fronts including review of journals, news articles, and statistics from school districts and cities. Peer reviewed journal articles made up the bulk of the research and came from databases including: CINAHL Complete, CQ Researcher, Google Scholar, and Academic OneFile.

Results & Findings

The Child Trends Databank reports that during the 2013-14 school year there were 1.4 million homeless students, a statistic that fails to include the number of homeless children enrolled in the public school system (Child Trends Databank, 2015). The databank states that this statistic has more than doubled (590,000) since the 2004-05 school year.

Figure 1

The Child Trends Databank also highlights statistics on the basis of age. Pointing out the extremes, the total number of children in shelters under the age of 12 accounts for 82 percent of that population while only 18 percent are between the ages of 13 and 17. Unaccompanied youth, those who are homeless and living without family, differ statistically in that 87 percent of the children are between the ages of 13 and 17. Thirteen percent of unaccompanied youth are 12 years of age and younger (Child Trends Databank, 2015).

Figure 3

According to Welch-Lazoritz et. al, a study that compared homeless women with and without children across a broad sample of living conditions showed that there were strong correlations of axis I and axis II disorders for both cases ( Welch-Lazoritz et. al, 2015). Borderline personality disorder and substance abuse problems were the most prevalent issues faced by those populations.

Homeless youth experience intra and interpersonal deficits that have the potential to create lifelong psychiatric problems. Bassuk and Rosenberg, in their study, “Psychosocial Characteristics of Homeless Children and Children with Homes,” found developmental delays and a significant disparity when comparing anxiety of homeless youth to their housed low-income peers; this measurement was made using the “Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale” (Bassuk and Rosenberg 1990).

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(Child Trends Databank 2015)
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(Child Trends Databank 2015)


The number of children without homes is growing steadily from year to year. A large portion of this population is represented by the country's economic stability and ultimately job market volatility. Looking at the data presented in Figure 3 we can expect to see an increase in the number of homeless children for years to come. These children will encounter a number of challenges not faced by their housed low-income peers including psychosocial and behavioral issues, developmental problems, and a culture of high risk behavior.

Conclusion & Recommendations

The major issue to be dealt with is having the resources to help circumstantially homeless families and their children. The reality is, homelessness begets homeless, that is to say, once a family becomes homeless, it’s hard to break that cycle without some type of intervention. Many honest circumstantially homeless families find it difficult to find help that will get them back on their feet; a lot of homeless families even avoid help worrying that the state will attempt to take their kids. The key is to be able to differentiate between the caregivers that are between work and in need of help and the ones that actually choose that lifestyle. Those kids need immediate extraction, a family that can take care of them, and psychotherapy.

The current trajectory for homeless youth in the US is unacceptable; the US attitude of nihilism, is not only wrong, it’s simply inappropriate. Changes need to be made to address these issues. I purpose that we empower the school districts to intervene on these matters. Many of the families with volatile housing situations can be detected in this setting while the families choosing a homeless lifestyle can be approached differently. Regardless, displaced families need help; it’s society's responsibility to address this issue. A tradition of homeless children in the US must be avoided.


Bassuk, Ellen L., and Lynn Rosenberg. "Psychosocial Characteristics of Homeless Children and Children With Homes." AAP Gateway: Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 Mar. 1990. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.

Child Trends Databank. (2015). Homeless children and youth. Available at: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=homeless-children-and-youth

Henry A. "Domestic terrorism, youth, and the politics of disposability." Knowledge Cultures 3.5 (2015): 116. Academic OneFile. Web. 7 Apr. 2016.

Portwood, Sharon G., et al. "Examining the impact of family services on homeless children." Child & Family Social Work 20.4 (2015): 480+. Academic OneFile. Web. 7 Apr. 2016.

Welch-Lazoritz, Melissa L., Les B. Whitbeck, and Brian E. Armenta. "Characteristics of Mothers Caring for Children During Episodes of Homelessness." Community Mental Health Journal 51.8 (2015): 913+. Academic OneFile. Web. 7 Apr. 2016.