Homeless for the Holidays

Many Americans Out in the Cold

Senquasha ParksIn a recent NBC Nightly News story, Martha White writes, “Some kids don’t want iPads, Xboxes or Frozen dolls for Christmas. They just want a place to call home.”

This important message gives us pause as the number of homeless families across the country increases.

White profiles college student Senquasha Parks who was formerly homeless and Carmen Vest who along with her two children became homeless due to domestic violence.

Both women’s stories touch on factors that relate to family homelessness:

  • The number of homeless children is vastly unreported as parents worry that their homelessness will cause their children to have to change schools,
  • ¾ of homeless children start off staying with friends and family who often have very few extra resources and little free space to share,
  • Most homeless families are headed by a single mom,
  • 40% of homeless families live below the poverty line, and
  • Domestic violence is a leading cause of family homelessness often turning women and their children out onto the street,

The outlook for homeless families in 2015 looks grim. Post recession, the gap between “the haves and the have nots” continues to widen. Research by the National Low Income Housing Coalition finds that across the country, full time workers cannot afford two bedroom rental apartments.

Even with an administrative job, her income wasn’t enough to pull the family back from the financial brink.

‘For the past five or six years around Christmastime, we’ve been somewhere else,’ Vest said. ‘I worked full-time every day and it just was not enough.’

She said.

This year, with the help of nonprofit group HomeStretch, a group that works with homeless families, Vest and her family, which now includes a month-old baby boy and the infant’s father — also her daughter’s father — have moved into a new home. The two older kids are excited about decorating for Christmas — and having their own bedrooms.”

Parks thinks about her college dormitory very differently than most college students who look forward to going home for the holidays.

“’My dorm is my home now. It’s something I can call my own.’”

She said.