Summertime: Not a Break for Homeless Families

Every June, kids across the United States are counting down to summer vacation. They cannot wait…

Georgia (Aug 28, 2015)Every June, kids across the United States are counting down to summer vacation. They cannot wait for the break—a time for family outings to beaches, parks, and museums, for riding bikes and going swimming.

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Summer also brings a less welcome phenomenon—often called the “summer surge”—of increasing numbers of people, including families, needing shelter. There are many reasons for this increase, but at least one cause can be linked to the summer break itself; relatives and friends who have allowed homeless families to live with them during the school year are less patient with the situation once summer break has started and children are home all day.

For children experiencing homelessness, a break from school can mean a break from the one stable place in their lives. “School is a critical, normalizing part of life,” says Nan Roman, president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “School is a time for being with peers, pursuing interests, and being out of the stressful situation of being homeless.”

Four-year colleges generally provide housing to students, but at a significant cost, and not always year-round. “We certainly see students struggle with housing during breaks,” says Cyekeia Lee, director of higher education initiatives for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY). “Of course, in community college there is no housing at all, so those students struggle year-round. For students on campus, summer is the longest break. It can make the difference between a student coming back for sophomore year or not. Sometimes they have to go to a different state for housing with friends or family, and they might not return.”

Many college students are reluctant to reach out for help, and try to avoid shelters. “I have had students call me from barns,” says Lee. “Some students are saying they live in 24-hour school libraries, and some are sleeping outside, but they may not say that to a lot of people.”

Marcy Stidium, director of the Campus Awareness, Resource and Empowerment (C.A.R.E.) Center for homeless and at-risk students at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, explains why students may run into trouble in the summer. “A lot of students have not been taught how to plan financially,” says Stidium. “They do not come from homes or places where you have conversations about how to budget—to know that if you have $2,000 in aid that is just for housing, you will still need money for food, toiletries, and those types of things.”

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its approximately 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu

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