New Research Much gratitude to Ronald E. Hallett whose research greatly informs this work: Educational Experiences of Hidden Homeless Teenagers Living Doubled-Up (Routledge, 2012).
“ Worn Out Welcome Mat ” Thanks to Ms. Diane Nilan, award-winning researcher and videographer who filmed “Worn Out Welcome Mat” chronicling the lives of homeless Texas students and their families living doubled- up.
Most Homeless Families Live Doubled-up Significant research has been done on educating children in shelters or living on the streets; however Very little research has investigated the lives of students living in doubled-up families. The few studies that have been completed find that --
Doubled-Up Housing Jeopardizes Children’s Well-Being Doubling up and housing insecurity correlate reliably to poor school performance, mental health issues, and behavioral concerns ( Children’s Healthwatch Policy Action Brief, “Overcrowding and Frequent Moves Undermine Children’s Health” www.childrenshealthwatch.org (November, 2011).www.childrenshealthwatch.org “High mobility” is defined as more than 2 or 3 moves in 12 months (Ibid., p. 1)
How Did This Happen? Okuyi’s Story https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWdl0vCJSVA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWdl0vCJSVA from “Worn Out Welcome Mat”
Some doubled-up situations support student resilience; others do not. Which do? Why? Many unaccompanied youth are runaways from doubled-up situations in which life became intolerable due to factors outside the youth’s control such as crowded conditions, family conflict, abuse, neglect or a combination of these.
Children Doubled Up Due to Economic Hardship Are usually food insecure; In fair to poor health; At risk for developmental delays; Seriously underweight ( Children’s Healthwatch Policy Action Brief, “Overcrowding and Frequent Moves Undermine Children’s Health” www.childrenshealthwatch.org (November, 2011, p. 1). www.childrenshealthwatch.org
A Reliable Precursor Over 600,000 children in Texas live with a grandparent http://kinshipalliance.org/texas- state-information. http://kinshipalliance.org/texas- state-information Living doubled-up with family or friends due to economic hardship is a reliable precursor to total housing loss and entry into shelter, car, or the streets.
Frequency of Doubling-Up In 2007 there were 4 million doubled-up families; In 2012, there were 15 million (National Alliance, April, 2013); About 60-70% of all homeless students live doubled-up (Hallett, 2012, p. 4.).
Are All Doubled-up Students Homeless? Not all doubled-up situations fit the McKinney-Vento definition of “homeless;” Families doubled-up due to economic hardship or similar cause constitute about 60-80% of all homeless school-age families. In order to be eligible for McKinney-Vento services, a family must be doubled-up “due to economic hardship or other reason”.
“They Have a Roof Over Their Heads” Doubled-up families often do not think of themselves as homeless, so go unidentified. The law recognizes the hardships and educational disadvantage of doubled-up living by including it in the definition of “homeless.” The challenges homeless students face when doubled-up differ from those of unsheltered students, students living in cars, or students in a homeless shelter.
This Shelter May Look Perfect to a Kid in a House With 17 Other Kids
Research Findings Doubling up is often a precursor to unsheltered living or living in a homeless shelter (Ahrentzen, 2010), increasing students’ sense of insecurity. About 1/3 of people living doubled-up expend over 50% of their income on housing (ibid).
Life in Crowded Conditions During Economic Crisis Limited space – crowded conditions – and economic crisis are universal features of living doubled-up due to economic hardship. The effects of doubled- up homelessness on the educational outcomes of youth vary greatly.
Doubling Up Is Often a Result of Foreclosure Foreclosures spiked in 2009 and 2010 when home prices tanked and people lost their jobs and could not pay their mortgages. Now that the housing market has started recovering, fewer Americans are losing their properties each month. However, 30,056 families still lost their housing so far this year, 2014.
Cuts in Social Services Safety net cuts occurred simultaneously with families in mortgage and job loss crisis in 2007-2010. As a result, families with the lowest incomes tend to share housing at the highest rates. Shared housing, or doubling-up with friends or family, is not part of the iconic “American dream;” therefore, many students hide their housing situation.
Barriers to Access Students living doubled-up, nevertheless, aspire to graduate from high school and attain a middle class lifestyle at the same rate as do housed students; And while the McKinney-Vento Act has made a substantial improvement in school access for many homeless students, those who live doubled-up have specific barriers that other students may not have.
Doubled up Youth Or Families Fear Identification Fear eviction because they are living with another family contrary to the lease agreement; Parents fear identification because they are afraid authorities will take their children away; Students fear identification because they are afraid they will have to change schools. Fear of being identified because couch-surfers may be runaways or throwaways;
Challenges to School Success: Physical Being unsure of one’s housing (“housing insecure”) and doubling-up brings many risks: Crowded conditions promote the spread of illnesses, both mental and physical Sexual abuse may occur more easily in situations where students sleep in tight quarters with non- relative adults and where the stakes for revealing the abuse are high –loss of fragile housing.
Challenges to School Success: Psychological Higher exposure to violence and threats may lead to post-traumatic stress behaviors, an inability to concentrate in school, and disruptions of normal child development leading to low socialization and emotional control skills. The effects of inter-parental or household violence in crowded conditions can lead to behaviors of hyper- vigilance in school and elsewhere. Privacy is a well-researched, established good (Wiemers, 2011)
Challenges to School Success: Academic High mobility causes lack of continuity in instruction and uneven credit accrual; Crowded sleeping conditions may cause sleep deprivation and sleepiness in class; Household configuration may mean that food is scarce; squabbles over who ate what and what belongs to whom may occur; hoarding food is a common characteristic of children experiencing food insecurity;
Challenges to School Success: Academics (cont.) Lack of routines and order in the home may mean students do not have a safe place to sleep, clean clothes, a secure place to do homework (others may take their stuff), or they may not have privacy of any kind. Chaotic conditions may impair the executive functions of the malleable brain. Families often double-up without first clarifying the rules they will follow:
Sources of Friction Who cleans the house? Who disciplines whose children? What do we do if we have different rules for each family? Who cooks, if anyone? Who cleans up, if anyone? Who guards the refrigerator? How do we prevent the spread of colds, flu, and other air-borne illnesses?
Sources of Friction (cont.) When it is all right to make noise? Whose music do we listen to? Who decides the curfew for which children? What do we watch on TV? Who (all) helps pay the utilities? What if someone takes too long a shower? Leaves the lights on?
More Sources of Friction Who sleeps where? – who designates access to beds or spots on the floor? Who watches out for the safety of unrelated minors in crowded sleeping conditions? What do we do about crying babies or children? What if they are neglected, and I can’t sleep? What do we do when we have clear rules and guidelines and they are not followed?
Doubling Up and Educational Attainment No high school High school only Some college College +* *Weimers (2011), p. 11 Doubled up: black bar
Unemployment Correlates to Doubling Up About twice as many doubled-up households have one unemployed adult compared to households that have no unemployed adults. The unemployment of the male head of household is most relevant to doubling-up or, if there is no male head of household, the employment status of the single female head of household reliably predicts doubling up.
Doubled-Up Rewards? There is no research evidence that shared living arrangements contribute to well-being.
How Do Doubled-Up Families Live? Juan Lives in a two-bedroom apartment with eight other people; Juan’s mother was too proud to accept welfare help of any type; Juan dreamed about being a doctor, but thought college applications and credit accrual could wait until his senior year;
Meet Juan The two-bedroom apartment houses nine people; Juan sleeps in a closet that was converted to a bedroom for him; his bed takes up the majority of the space. A shelf at the top of the closet serves as a dresser. The walls are covered with soccer posters. Household members frequently argue about choices of music and about who is and who is not following the rules; Juan’s brother, Pedro, can’t wait for Juan to move out so he has a private sleeping place, the closet.
Juan’s Day 7:15 awakens; Mom already gone to the first of her two jobs; Juan’s aunt yells at him because his alarm clock woke her up. Juan tippy toes around the kitchen, making pancakes so as not to awaken his uncle in the living room. Juan gets his brother up and then his sister who he must accompany to school; he hurries her because she usually causes Juan to be late for school. They have no SoO transportation because they have not been identified.
Juan’s Day (Cont.) Juan goes to all of his classes, including an ESL class and his favorite, Chemistry. The day ends with a soccer practice and then Juan picks up his sister and they walk home. Juan lives for soccer, but an injury may keep him from extensive play. The family is uninsured, and injuries scare Juan’s Mom who wants him to quit. She has never seen one of his games, not even a championship game he starred in. His soccer coach mentors him and frequently encourages him to apply to college.
“Separate” Doubled-Up Households Juan’s mother and her family and Juan’s sister and her family live entirely separate in every way except physically. They do not prepare meals together, share rides, help the kids with homework or provide any clues as to how to navigate for a better future. Juan doesn’t spend much time with his cousin Pablo. They respect each other's leftovers in the refrigerator and stay out of each other’s way ( Hallett p. 42) Juan had a university mentor who inspired him to attend college and, despite having to take on a 22-hour a weekend job when his Mom lost one of her jobs, Juan was eventually admitted to UCLA on a 60% scholarship.
“Worn Out Welcome Mat” “Family Living in Donna ISD” – Olga’s Dreams and Dusty Roads https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDZFsjVD8l0&l ist=PLcyzxfZMQBZIAKQ- Zpk4vk7CqApLcm7Ex&index=4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDZFsjVD8l0&l ist=PLcyzxfZMQBZIAKQ- Zpk4vk7CqApLcm7Ex&index=4
Olga’s Life in Donna What did you observe about Olga’s doubled-up life? Food insecurity? Health problems? If you were the teacher or principal in these children’s life, what would you want to know? What would you do to help? How would you hope their teachers would respond?
Meet Isaac Doubled up as a result of a family separation, Isaac moved with his mother into a 2-bedroom apartment with his grandmother and aunt. Then his mother was extradited from California to Texas where she was incarcerated for robbery. Isaac came under child protective services. After a number of unsuccessful placements, Isaac was legally adopted by an extended family member.
Isaac’s Situation “Faith,” now his legal guardian, was the mother of his cousin’s girlfriend. The 3- bedroom apartment where Isaac now stayed sheltered 4 households totaling 13 people– Faith & her two sons, a daughter, and Isaac comprised household #1; Faith’s oldest daughter and her boyfriend and their two children formed household #2; Ricardo, a friend Faith met in a downtown hotel, was a 50-year old undocumented man who worked 2 fulltime jobs and represented household #3 along with another man, David, and his son, 3, who composed household #4.
Isaac’s Residence (Cont.) Hallett describes Faith’s home in this way: “The main room includes a kitchen and living room with two couches, sitting perpendicular... Bits of food, soiled clothes and other items cover the dingy white tile floor. Dirty dishes, school binders, thawing meat and noodles, among other things, teeter precariously on the dining room table. The trash can is nearly buried in overflowing garbage. Faith’s bedroom has clothes and other items piled waist high with a path to her mattress that sits on the floor... The tub in the main bathroom no longer works; the toilet seat remains attached by one screw. Everyone now shares the master bathroom” (p. 44, Hallett).
Isaac’s Day Begins the day by watching TV and trying to catch the Lakers’ score; Faith makes no effort to ensure her kids are not truant; Isaac cannot persuade Faith, although he tries on at least four separate occasions, to help him enroll in school; Isaac plays video games with friends and waits patiently while some of these friends exchange drugs. By dusk, he’s back home foraging for food.
Isaac’s History Isaac’s weekends involve visits with friends who supply drugs, alcohol, blunts (weed), and parties. He gets high on a regular basis. Faith is uninvolved in his life and is not held accountable for his truancy from school. The residence is plagued by fighting and conflict. Isaac, who is shy by nature, is not able to become involved in the educational process. He has no idea what the steps towards higher education or a vocational certification would be. Isaac longed for residential stability, but was involved in numerous moves due to evictions for not caring for the property, loud music, or crowded conditions.
Isaac’s Future Isaac’s residence was “separate” to an extreme degree; no one from any of the 4 households helped one another. Isaac’s tenacious goal of being a basketball player was not challenged or supported by any adult who could provide guidance. His residence with Faith provided him no guidance but was there simply for her financial advantage. At the end of the story, Isaac had only sophomore credits, no one to guide him, and, at length, it became apparent that he might be breaking into local residences to support his various addictions.
Meet Kylee When Kylee’s parents divorced, she became unstably housed; Mother Lucy moved in with her friend, Angela. They live in a 3-bedroom apartment in Watts, CA. The mothers have their own bedroom and the kids share a room.
Kylee’s Day Kylee shares a bedroom with her two siblings and two other children; they sleep in bunk beds, 4 to a room Plastic bins contain each child’s belongings and though small, the four-bunk bedroom is not strewn with debris; Time and routines are established and enforced. The mother figure who performed the traditional female roles (child care, tutoring and enrichment) was expected to pay less rent. Cleaning, cooking, and childcare were worth 700-1000/month.
Kylee Finds Privacy Kylee rises at 5am to use the shower by herself for a few minutes. After she showers and irons her long hair, she awakens her sister and they awaken the other three kids. Kylee, Alicia and JT are Lucy’s kids; Julio and Monique are Angela’s kids. Angela works 2 jobs -- one cleaning offices at a military base and another as a fast food server. The 3 children only get to see their mother several minutes a day.
The “Merged” Household By 7am, Lucy and Kylee have made sure everyone is dressed, have their back packs ready, and have the house clean. Lucy inspects the bedroom and makes any child who has left clothes on the floor pick them up. All the children attend school regularly and generally are good students. Kylee struggles in algebra, but is passing all of her classes. While Lucy runs errands and picks up the other kids, she has a little “me” time. In “merged households,” everyone compromises in order to support the benefit each individual member needs.
Child Discipline in a Sample Merged Household When the five children squabble, Angela generally calls the shots and Lucy supports her. The two roommates purchased a car together and generally the rent is paid by Angela whose two jobs earn her about $900 of the rent and Lucy has to come up with $300 more. When asked to describe the relationship Lucy has with Angela, Lucy says, “Angela is the man of the house.”
Rules and Routines This “merged” household is characterized by rules and routines that have been worked out over time. Children are expected to prepare their own uniforms, clean up the house, are assigned individual days in which they can shower, and are generally held accountable for rule-breaking. Lucy and Angela both agreed on the need for respect from all the kids for both adults.
Kylee’s Educational Attainment Like Isaac, Kylee thought she could concern herself about college or technical training after graduation from high school. She moved high schools so often, she could not even remember all of the names of the schools she attended. Behind in her credits, she did not take college entrance examinations on time upon the advice of her counselor who thought she needed more credits in order to take the test.
Educators Help Kids Build Resilience With just one person – a mentor, a teacher, a counselor, a homeless liaison – or almost anyone having their back, youth in highly mobile doubled-up situations can survive and dream. Here’s Ira: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7LRxYfKnGc https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7LRxYfKnGc
Opportunities to Help Doubled-Up Students Educators can continue to use every avenue possible to identify families living doubled up. Communicate to teachers and principals that these children are homeless and may need modifications; Understand that doubled-up families might benefit from knowing that merged households tend to have more successful students than separate households; Continue to advocate for supportive housing so that all families can have a private and secure home.