Poverty & Homeless Families

An excerpt from 9 Challenges our students Face in school today by Matthew Lynch​​

Some students struggle with completing Math and English assignments, submitting homework on time, and staying focus in class. However, these struggles may be a part of a greater problem that is not clearly seen by parents, guardians, and educators. 9 challenges students face in school are poverty, homeless families, child abuse and neglect, bullying (including cyber bullying), violence, obesity and eating disorders, sex and pregnancy, suicide, drugs, and dropping out. This article reviews the first two challenges which are poverty and homeless families.

Contrary to what many believed possible in the past, education has not eliminated poverty. Schools have not been designed to properly serve poor children. They reflect and promote a middleclass way of life. What other challenges do impoverished children experience? They often come from homes that are not adequate in terms of shelter, and they may live in dangerous communities. In their neighborhood, they may be exposed to drugs, violent crime, and prostitution, and they may turn to these types of activities themselves at an early age.

Parents of children living in poverty often struggle to provide them with enough quality food and medical coverage. Children living in poverty often come to school without having had enough sleep and without having had breakfast. They often experience family violence, abuse, secondhand smoke, neglect, and inadequate clothing. They may not be able to pay for field trips or other extracurricular activities that might expand their experience base. This is the frightening reality for millions of children. As a teacher, you will likely have impoverished students in your class.

Homeless children still need to have an education, although when they get to school each morning, they are often hungry and tired. Like many children living in poverty, homeless children move frequently, and are exposed to drugs, violence, crime, and more. Transportation might be an issue for some homeless children, and they miss a great deal of school. When they can attend school, they may be teased about their clothes and the fact they fall asleep in class. They may have difficulty making friends or fear participating in an activity in front of the class. Although many homeless children are with their families, older homeless children may be runaways or may have been kicked out of their homes. Many have been abused sexually and/or physically.

Teachers who have homeless children in their classroom will need to know how to help and support children without a permanent home. The children may be emotionally needy. Due to lack of access to bathtubs or showers and little food, they may be dirty and hungry. Teachers can be an anchor for these children by showing them compassion and understanding. It may also be a challenge to communicate with parents who do not have regular access to a phone. Of course, the most important thing for homeless children is that their families find a home. Teachers might be able to help by working with local agencies, children, and their families to find a solution to their problem.

Poverty and homeless families are serious challenges that students may be facing today. Be aware of signs or situations that reflect these problems among your students. In the classroom seek to assist your students as best as you can and continue to educate them. Continue to read the other parts of this series to learn more about the challenges students face today.

Full Article:



Lynch, Matthew. “9 Challenges Our Students Face in School Today Part I: Poverty & Homeless Families.” The Edvocate, 3 Sept. 2018, www.theedadvocate.org/9-challenges-students-face-school-today-part-poverty-homeless-families/.

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I chose this article because I think it is important to remind ourselves of the daily struggles some of these kids go through. In many situations, teachers and peers are completely unaware, making it seem like these kids are unmotivated. It is so important to see past the outcome of a child's work and try to understand the process it took to get them there.