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Identity & Community

Homeless Children’s Awareness Week Sheds Light On The Condition Of Homeless Youth

Without stable housing, the odds are stacked against these children.

With an estimated 1,800 school-aged children experiencing homelessness in the Pittsburgh area, the Fourth Annual Homeless Children’s Awareness Week aims to raise both concern and activism among residents.

Bill Wolf, executive director of the Homeless Children’s Education Fund, said few individuals and organizations are even aware child homelessness exist, let alone the “staggering” numbers.

“We have found out that here in our community, that if people become aware of the issue, they will help, they will contribute, and they will work to make these kids’ lives much better,” Wolf said.

The HCEF’s mission is to help homeless children realize their potential and ensure them an equal and valued academic experience.

A national study cited by the HCEF found that every time a homeless child moves to a new school, he or she falls four to six months behind academically. These setbacks can lead to the child’s placement in the social welfare system, or in more extreme instances the criminal justice system.

“Once the children fall behind, if they’re not given extra support to get current and remain current with their peers, then they get frustrated, they get teased, sometimes they get bullied, and as soon as they are old enough to drop out of school they do so,” Wolf said.  

Wolf says in addition to homelessness, these children are often witnesses or victims of domestic abuse. With all the roadblocks Wolf is still confident these individuals can grow up to be productive adults.

“The positive thing is that if they get support, if they get help they are tremendously resilient, and they can bounce and they do bounce back and many of them go onto really be successes in life,” Wolf said.

According to Wolf, since the recession of 2008 the Pittsburgh region has seen an increased population of homeless children, and Wolf said that volunteers are needed now more than ever.

“As soon as we can get these kids into an afterschool program, and we get them match up with a mentor, or matched up with a positive adult role model, it really increases the chance of them not dropping out of school and them proceeding onto high school and some form of post-secondary education,” Wolf said.

The HCEF will host the week of activities from Oct. 19 to Oct. 26, including a prayer service, unscripted storytelling, performance art installations, and conclude with a Stand Up & Run for Homeless Children 5/10 K Run/Walk event at the North Park Boat House.