Our #172vt campaign is an effort to bring attention to the urgent and growing needs of homeless children. The number of homeless children nationally has surged in recent years to all-time record highs. Vermont has echoed these disturbing trends. Today, one in every 30 children in the United States is homeless.
Every year, we examine the issue in our own community. We conduct a count of homeless students and toddlers in Chittenden County. These children are often the hidden and unseen face of homelessness.
This year, there were 140 school-aged children, plus 32 children under age 5. That makes 172 homeless children in our community.
To put that number in perspective, 172 children fills 4 school buses, 8 classrooms, or 14 school basketball teams. There are 44 Dunkin Donuts franchises in the entire state of Vermont. That means there are 4 times as many homeless children in out community as there are Dunkin Donuts in the whole state. We want to raise awareness about this startling number. And, we want to end homelessness — one child at a time. One homeless child is a tragedy. 172 homeless children is a crisis.
Keep in mind:
- Although the overall number of people who are homeless in Vermont has gone down in the past two years from 4,244 to 3,934, the number of homeless families during that same period rose alarmingly — from 517 to 713 (a 38 percent increase).
- The U.S. Department of Education reported that Vermont was among the top 10 states nationally for the sharpest increase in number of homeless students in 2013. There was a 34 percent increase in number of homeless students in Vermont between 2007-2013.
- The number of homeless children in the U.S. has surged in recent years to an all-time high, amounting to one child in every 30, according to a recent report by the National Center on Family Homelessness calculates that nearly 2.5 million American children were homeless at some point in 2013. The number is based on the Department of Education’s latest count of 1.3 million homeless children in public schools, supplemented by estimates of homeless pre-school children not counted by the DOE. Child homelessness increased by 8 percent nationally from 2012 to 2013, according to this report.
Families experiencing homelessness are under considerable stress. Homelessness is a devastating experience that significantly impacts the health and well-being of adults and children. Experiencing homelessness affects how children and adults think, feel, behave, relate, and cope — all of which can have serious impacts on a child’s health.
- Children experiencing homelessness are sick 4 times more often than other children. They get 4 times as many respiratory infections, twice as many ear infections, 5 times more gastrointestinal problems, and are 4 times as likely to have asthma.
- Based on 2013 data, Vermont is in the top 10 worst states for student homelessness, with a 34 percent increase in childhood homelessness from 2007 to 2013.
- Homeless children go hungry twice as often as other children, and 25% of homeless children report eating less after becoming homeless. They also have high rates of obesity due to scarcity of affordable foods with high nutritional value.
- Children facing homelessness have 3 times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems compared with non-homeless children. For example, 53% have problems such as anxiety, depression, or withdrawal, compared with 17% of other school-age children.
- Homeless children are twice as likely to have learning disabilities and are 4 times as likely to have slow or delayed development.
We see #172vt as a call to action. A call to contact legislators about the importance of more affordable housing and a call to join us for the annual COTS Walk, to walk in solidarity with the homeless families in our towns and cities. The more #172vt is visable, the greater effect it will have in garnering support for the cause.
Let all of your friends and followers know that you think 172 homeless children in our community is unacceptable. Use the hashtag (#172vt) to join a community of people fighting against childhood homelessness. Tweet a storm! Take to Instagram! Flood Facebook! Do anything you can to get the word out about the #172vt campaign.
The rising trend in family homelessness can have dire effects on a child, but there has been little media coverage. We want to change that with #172vt.