During the briefing, homeless and formerly homeless youth shared their experiences and shed light on the factors, such as parental neglect or abuse, which led to their homelessness.
Students explained that a variety of factors contributed to their homelessness, including parental abuse, parental drug addiction or alcoholism, the death of a parent, abandonment by a parent, or teen pregnancy. The array of responses all had the similar theme of an absent parental figure.
Primary and secondary school were challenging but served as an escape from greater struggles. School would create purpose in homeless students’ lives. School was a safe haven that guaranteed breakfast and lunch. Students recommended that teachers ask about students’ well being instead of embarrassing or bullying them when they fall asleep in class, have not done assignments, or do not have school supplies.
The students discussed various barriers to higher education they encountered. To begin with, obtaining financial aid to attend college is often difficult because it is not easy to prove homelessness. Students sometimes have difficulty with childcare for their younger siblings. Affordable housing is crucial to establishing stability and a healthy lifestyle.
“It is impossible to learn when you are constantly worrying about being evicted (from your dorm) because you cannot afford the cost of living at school,” said panelist Elaine from Richmond, VA.
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