First Report Focusing on Homeless Children in L.A. County Ages 0-5 Years
Facing problems most children don't even know about, a recent First 5 LA study has found that on any given night, at least 3,000 children 5 years and under are homeless in Los Angeles County. They are living with their family in shelters, transitional housing, on the street or somewhere else not fit for human habitation. While the number of children who were homeless remained relatively stable between 2009 and 2011, the number is unacceptably high and expected to grow in the near future.
This dismal portrait is the most comprehensive analysis to date on homeless youngsters under five years of age in L.A. County. Designed to focus on the scope of homelessness among young children, the report provides an opportunity for future discussions about First 5 LA's role in addressing this vulnerable population.
The geographic distribution of the homeless population is uneven across the county and the distribution is somewhat different for children than it is for the total homeless population. Nearly one-third of L.A. County's homeless children are in South L.A. While other communities have the highest proportion of the total homeless population, this area has the highest proportion of the homeless child population.
The First 5 LA report also highlights findings from other studies on the adverse conditions facing homeless children:
- Homeless children are 12 times more likely than other children to go into the foster care system;
- Homeless children are more likely to be overweight and obese than other children;
- Homeless children are twice as likely to repeat a grade and have twice the rate of learning disabilities as children who are not homeless.
- Women who were homeless during pregnancy were more likely to give birth prematurely than other women.
In addition to exposure to violence, homeless children often live in chaotic and stressful environments, characterized by frequent moves, family separations, unpredictable adults (often due to substance abuse and mental health problems).
Within a single year, 97 percent of homeless children move up to three times, 40 percent attend two different schools and 28 percent attend three or more different schools. Homeless children are also often separated from their families. These health and behavioral consequences for children who experience homelessness coupled with the frequent moves between schools have further consequences in terms of school performance and children's ability to build stable and healthy friendships.
According to the First 5 LA report, the number of young children who are homeless is expected to climb and it was recommended that the next steps should address the need to improve data on homeless children through collaborating with L.A. County departments, collecting more specific housing and homeless information from First 5 LA-funded programs and partnering with "Continuum of Care" agencies to regularly assess trends in homeless children and their families.
For more information on the Homeless Children 0-5 in Los Angeles County Report visit www.first5la.org/files/RE_Homeless.