Children should remain front-and-center in fight to end homelessness

To solve family homelessness (eventually ending homelessness for children), all aspects of care for parents and children—physical, behavioral, educational and housing—need to be fully coordinated.

Dear Mayor Lori Lightfoot,

We urge you to renew your efforts to reduce homelessness and bankroll affordable housing in Chicago. This is no small problem. The latest Chicago Coalition for the Homeless statistics show 86,324 Chicagoans are homeless or in shared living arrangements.

This is particularly problematic for Chicago’s children, who experience lives of chaos and trauma that often lead to numerous physical and mental health issues. Repeated moves result in frequent school disruptions, inadequate physical health care and nearly nonexistent mental health care. Not surprisingly, many homeless children experience educational delays and never catch up.

Furthermore, homeless children experience higher rates than their housed peers of asthma and digestive problems thanks to poor nutrition that stems from food insecurity. Studies indicate they are twice as likely to have learning disabilities and three times as likely to develop behavioral health disorders. More disturbingly, only 1 in 4 homeless children will ever receive needed mental health treatment.

During the 2017-18 school year, Chicago Public Schools data shows 17,894 homeless children were enrolled in the Students in Temporary Living Situations program. Those are the children we can account for; the numbers are likely higher, and every number counts in the fight to end homelessness. Residential instability as a child is a key indicator of homelessness as an adult, so these children are likely to follow in the footsteps of their parents.

To turn the tide on homelessness and set a precedent for the rest of your administration, it’s critical to focus on homeless children during your first 100 days. And to solve family homelessness (eventually ending homelessness for children), all aspects of care for parents and children—physical, behavioral, educational and housing—need to be fully coordinated.

One of the best ways to accomplish this—a behemoth task in and of itself—is with High Fidelity Wraparound, a proven, research-based method of engaging and supporting high-risk children and their families. When implemented correctly, peer-reviewed research shows it yields the highest level of outcomes for children across all life domains—health, education and housing. Specialized care coordinators partner with children and their families to create tailored plans that ensure their service needs are met, and to help them problem-solve and overcome obstacles.

Advocacy and integration on a systems-wide level is critical in Chicago to implement HFW. To accomplish this goal, Primo Center, along with Heartland Alliance Health and Catholic Charities, formed a community planning team with representatives from every system serving children in the city and state. It’s funded by the Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation—30 members strong—and includes DCFS, CPS, Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, Ounce of Prevention Fund, Chicago Department of Family & Support Services, All Chicago and other philanthropists and service providers. But most significantly, we include homeless parents and youth.

Collectively, our planning team is making system changes that will ensure the housing and well-being of the homeless children. Please join us, Mayor Lightfoot, and help make Chicago the first major U.S. city to end family homelessness.

Christine Achre is CEO of the Primo Center for Women & Children in Chicago.

Source:
Crain’s Chicago Business
https://www.chicagobusiness.com/lightfoot-100/children-should-remain-front-and-center-fight-end-homelessness