Experiencing the Risk of Homelessness—US Dept of Health and Human Services-Oct. 16, 2016. The first year of life is when people who are most likely to enter shelter and transitional housing programs, followed by ages one to five. Among low income families, being pregnant or having a child under the age of two is associated with elevated risk for seeking or entering
shelter. Raising a child is expensive; in 2013, low income families spent between $8,000 to $9,000 raising a child 0-2 year old, with housing, along with child care and early education, accounting for the largest share of the costs. The birth of child affects parents’ ability to work, often disrupts family routines, and can trigger the need for additional space and resources. The birth of a child may further strain limited social and financial resources or necessitate the need to leave inadequate housing arrangements and in some arrangements, lead to the loss of housing. Estimates show that there are more than 1.2 million children under six experiencing homelessness every year. These children sleep in cars, shelters, and abandoned buildings. Their families relocate often, which results in infants and toddlers having little continuity of care.
Current research establishes a strong connection between a young child’s early experiences and the development of his or her brain structure. These early years of life can provide a strong or weak foundation for all future learning, behavior, and health. Children born into homelessness are more likely to have low birth weights, are at greater risk for multiple health risks, and have greater experiences of food insecurity.
Study after study confirms what every teacher knows: young children who experience secure, stimulating environments with rich learning opportunities from an early age are better prepared to thrive in school and in life. Children’s earliest experiences and environments influence later success in school and in life. When parents and children are stably housed, they make strides in reach other goals.