The typical picture of homelessness is of someone living on the street, asking for spare change or sleeping on a bench or in a doorway. That is only part of the picture of homelessness. For children and youth, and in rural communities, homelessness is far more often hidden than visible. Raising the Roof, Canada’s national fundraising and homelessness information organization, estimates that 80% of Canada’s homeless population is actually hidden.
Homeless children and youth might be in any of the following circumstances:
Families and children become homeless for many reasons, including
Children and youth often do not directly say that they do not have a place to live. Be on the lookout for the signs of possible homelessness in children and youth:
The impact of homelessness on the education of children and youth is profound. In its early stages, homelessness affects a student’s ability to be prepared for and function in school. It also leads to changing schools and missing days of school. In the longer term, homelessness can contribute to students dropping out of school, which might not be noticed right away if a student has been in the school for only a short time. Children and youth often move along a continuum of homelessness, from a first tentative break with their families and homes and then coming and going until they make a permanent break. This process is often accompanied by missing more and more school until they eventually drop out. Schools that can identify students who are at risk of leaving home have an opportunity to intervene to try to prevent the eventual break with the education system.
In urban communities, where a formalized shelter system exists, schools and shelters have worked together to make sure that children and youth in the shelters can attend school, preferably the school they attended before entering the shelter. In communities that lack a formal shelter network, it is more difficult to know when a student is homeless. A key feature of an evolving shelter network needs to be a commitment to keeping children and youth in their schools, providing transportation when it is needed.