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Unformatted text preview: Homeless Children: Needs and Services Anne Hicks-Coolick Patricia Burnside-Eaton Ardith Peters Kennesaw State University ABSTRACT: This study explored needs of homeless children and shelter services avail- able to them. The first phase of this mixed-method study consisted of open-ended inter- views of key personnel in six diverse homeless shelters in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia. This qualitative data gave direction to the creation of a questionnaire used in a larger follow-up survey of shelters in the state of Georgia. Roughly two-thirds of the 102 report- ing shelters that served children provided food, clothing, and school supplies with 40% offering some form of transportation. More than 75% of the shelters were full and did not have space currently available for children, with an additional 10% having only one or two available beds. Most of the shelters lacked important services in the areas of medical and developmental assessments, access to education, childcare, and parent train- ing. Forty-seven percent lacked onsite worker training in the characteristics and needs of homeless children. In addition, while the McKinney Act legally mandates ways to serve homeless children, findings indicate that over half of key informants in homeless shelters were unfamiliar with the law. KEY WORDS: homeless children; homeless shelters; staff training; McKinney Act. In the United States (U.S.), homelessness is a complex, often misun- derstood social problem. The National Low Income Housing Coalition (2003) reports that there are as many as 800,000 homeless people in the country on any given night and as many as 3.5 million Americans spend some time homeless each year. While data indicate that many homeless individuals suffer from addiction and/or mental illness, all homeless people do not fit this profile (National Coalition for the Home- less [NCH], 2002a). In fact, 25% of the homeless work, but cannot afford a place to live, and 37% are families, the majority of whom are single females with children (National Law Center on Homelessness and Pov- erty, 1997). Furthermore, children comprise anywhere from 25% to 39% of the total homeless population, and there may be over a million Correspondence should be directed to Anne Hicks-Coolick, Kennesaw State University, Department of Human Services, 1000 Chastain Rd. #1807, Kennesaw, GA 30144; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Child & Youth Care Forum, 32(4), August 2003 2003 Human Sciences Press, Inc. 197 Child & Youth Care Forum 198 homeless children in America (Egan, 2002; Nunez & Fox, 1999; Urban Institute, 2000). As a result of poverty and homelessness, these children often suffer emotional, behavioral, and educational problems (Zima, Bussing, Bystritsky, Widawski, Belin, & Benjamin, 1999). The U.S. has made minimal commitments to protect children from the underlying economic and social causes of homelessness. However, in the face of the national crisis of children, the first line of defense is the emergency shelter and community-based services. This article presents the find-shelter and community-based services....
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