Tue, Dec 27, 2011 - Page 9 News List

Another face of the US recession: homeless children

Since 2007, child homelessness has jumped by 38 percent in the US, a rise that one expert attributes to the country’s recession and a surge in the number of extremely poor families headed by women

By Tom Brown  /  Reuters, MIAMI

In central Florida, Justin Santiago, 15, said he was not surprised when he, his parents and three younger siblings landed in a downtown Orlando shelter in September last year.

Since the national economic collapse in 2008, his out-of-work family bounced from one relative’s home to another and left California in search of employment and stability.

“I wasn’t shocked. When the economy’s going down and it just drops, it’s out of control,” Justin said.

In 16 years of marriage, his parents, Theresa and Timothy Santiago, managed to provide for their family by working multiple jobs, earning about US$20,000 in their best year. However, work dried up and the family set out for Florida last spring in search of cheaper living expenses.

After a run of more bad luck, they found their way to the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida shelter. However, Justin is taking eighth-grade honors classes now and says his family’s recent experience will not keep him from pursuing his dream career in video game production and becoming an Internet success story.

“It will get better for me and my family,” he said. “I’ll be making billions, I know that.”

Antonio Dixon, 26, knows all about things getting better. His mother, Corenthia, said he bounced between at least a dozen homeless shelters growing up in Miami and Atlanta.

He eventually won a football scholarship at the University of Miami and fought dyslexia to become the first person in his family to graduate college.

“They had me study hard every hour,” Dixon said.

He has since gone on to play defensive tackle for the National Football League’s Philadelphia Eagles, making good on his boyhood dream.

Dixon has been sidelined by a torn tricep since early October, but he seems confident about overcoming adversity yet again and plans on being in the starting lineup next season.

His advice to homeless kids is to stay in school and get focused on whatever it is they really want to do in life.

“Just keep on doing something you like and don’t give up,” Dixon said. “I had to work myself up from the bottom to the top. I did that. Don’t let nobody stand in your way. You just got to go and get it. You can’t be afraid to take a chance on life.”

Bassuk, a psychiatrist and Harvard Medical School professor, said medical problems and under-achievement in school were among the things that often go hand in hand with childhood homelessness.

“These are kids who don’t have any opportunities,” she said. “If you look at some of the educational variables, they’re doing really poorly. And they’re kids who can do OK. They just don’t have appropriate support.”

“It just seems that on every front this is a very vulnerable group of kids,” she said.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top