what went wrong blog

Tags: Children, Foreclosures

Homelessness takes it toll on Florida's youngest

Thursday, February 9th, 2012 

As a big part of the housing boom, Florida now stands at the epicenter of the fallout. The state's high unemployment and widespread foreclosures have a unique impact on the most vulnerable of Florida's residents — its children. Susannah Nesmith reports in the Broward Bulldog.


Photo by Mike Kane for Equal Voice News

Maribel Abreu, 6, hugs her mother Marleny Abreu, 44, in a two-bedroom apartment where they are staying temporarily with family in Florida.They family is homeless and are breaking the rules of the apartment complex by staying there. They have no where to go if they are forced to leave.

During the economic downturn from 2007 to 2010 homelessness among children spiked 38 percent nationwide.

Florida is usually thought of as a state made up of retirees enjoying their golden years. However, there are more children than senior citizens in Florida. While people over 65 make up 17.3 percent of the population, children account for 21.3 percent, according to the most recent U.S. Census.

According to the 2011 Council on Homelessness report, more than 49,000 Florida school-age children were identified by the public school districts as being homeless during the 2009-2010 school year.

In Miami-Dade County alone, school officials identified and assisted nearly 4,000 homeless children last year.

Broward County public schools reported about 2,000 homeless students in the 2008-2009 school year.

This school year, officials have already helped 4,920 in just the first four months. More than 2,300 of those students were living in shelters, with another 2,400 doubled up in apartments with friends or relatives. A handful lived in cars and parks.

Unstable housing situations can have a long-term impact on children. 

According to a report released this week by the Corporation for Economic Development in Washington D.C. 43 percent of families would fall below the poverty line within three months if they lost their jobs or became ill and couldn’t work. In Florida, 48 percent of families don’t have savings to last three months.


One third of children who experience homelessness repeat a grade in school, eight times the rate for children who have never been homeless, according to The National Center on Family Homelessness report. The report also noted that children who experience homelessness had higher rates of physical disabilities than impoverished children in stable living situations and nearly double the rate of emotional or behavioral problems.

Read more in the Broward Bulldog.


What Went Wrong

Donald Barlett and James Steele are revisiting America: What Went Wrong, their landmark 1991 newspaper series, in a new project with the Investigative Reporting Workshop. Over the next year, the project team will examine how four decades of public policy has shaped America's ongoing economic crisis.


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