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National Homeless Youth Awareness Month – What can you do to help?

The numbers are striking.  According to The National Center on Family Homelessness, one in fifty children experience homelessness in American each year. Not only are children who experience homelessness at higher risk of contracting acute and chronic health problems, but the constant barrage of stressful and traumatic experiences tends to lead to significant effects on the development and ability to learn of these children. For example, children experiencing homelessness become sick four times more often than other children, and go without food at twice the rate of other children.  Additionally, by age twelve, approximately 83% of these children have been exposed to at least one serious violent event and of that population about 25% have witnessed acts of violence within their families.  How do these experiences affect their development?  Generally, children experiencing homelessness are four times more likely to show delayed development and are twice as likely to have learning disabilities as compared to non-homeless children.

How does homelessness happen? According to The Characteristics and Needs of Families Experiencing Homelessness report,  “family homelessness is caused by the combined effects of lack of affordable housing, extreme poverty, decreasing government supports, the challenge of raising children alone, the changing demographics of the family, domestic violence,  and fractured social supports.  As the gap between housing costs and income continues to widen, more and more families are at risk of homelessness.  For families with vulnerabilities or little safety net, even a seemingly minor event can trigger a catastrophic outcome and catapult a family onto the streets.” National Center on Family Homelessness. The typical homeless family is comprised of a mother in her late twenties with two children (71% of homeless families).

What can you do to help? There are several options available for you to help.  You may want to volunteer with a local community organization that is focused on ending homelessness, such as the Winston Salem Homeless Shelters and Services for the Needy.  Or, you may want to support a local, state, or federal agency that provides programs to these families, such as one listed on the North Carolina Homeless Education Program page. Also, remember your role as a voter. You can vote for candidates that may have a strong stance on poverty, affordable housing, violence protection, and health care.  You may also want to donate to the National Center on Family Homelessness, and others, who are working to end homelessness.  Lastly, you can play a major role in educating others about the extent and causes of family homelessness and what to do about it.

Educating yourself and others starts with information.  The PCL has a vast collection of informational resources that are focused on homeless and advocacy.  Here are  just a few of the titles in our collection:

Keep homeless children in mind as we approach this upcoming November holiday – Thanksgiving.  As a lawyer, you will have a professional responsibility to give back to the community – voluntary pro bono publico service (ABA Rule 6.1). Even though this requirement is not mandatory across the states, it is undoubtedly recognized within the profession at-large that lawyers should be connected to their community through some type of service.  [State by State Guide for ABA Model Rule 6.1] Try it out this Thanksgiving and get involved to fight youth homelessness in one way or another.

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