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Moving Day

September 19, 2006

Have you ever moved?

I moved from California to Illinois when I was 5 years old. I did not transition well. For at least 3 years when people would ask me where I lived, I would say, “Well…I’m from California, but we’re just living in Illinois for a while.” I didn’t actually hate my new school, or my friends, or my house. I just hated the idea of moving, of leaving friends, of living in a new place. Even in college, when I moved to a different room every year, it took me at least a month to set it up. By the end of the year, the new room finally had started feeling like “home.” And then it was time to pack up and move out.

Most of us have moved at least once. It’s stressful, right? The packing, the unpacking, the getting settled, making new friends, starting a new schedule.

Homeless families are on the move almost every day. If you are living in your car, you may have a place to keep your stuff, and you know you can sleep in it…but where are you going to park? What about tomorrow? Where are you going to shower? Where are you going to do your homework.

The National Center on Family Homelessness has studied how homelessness uniquely affects families. Here’s what they found:

Families with children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.

Every year 1.35 million children experience homelessness.
They will move. Often as many as 3 times. 68% of those children will attend two or more schools.
They will be held back. 35% of those children will repeat a grade because of frequent absences or changing schools (compared to 10% of other children).
They will get sick. They will have twice as many ear infections, four times as many asthma attacks, five times more stomach problems, and six times as many speech problems.
They will experience violence. 25% will witness acts of violence within their own family.
They will wake up every day and worry about where they will go the next night. They will be hungry sometimes and not know where their next meal will come from.

I don’t want this to be just another list of depressing statistics. I do want this list to be help people understand the breadth of the problem of homelessness in 2006. This year the theme of Sleep Out Saturday is “How Homelessness Impacts Children and Youth.” Homeless families are a lot less visible than the homeless guy you pass on the street everyday—but it doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

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