Essay: Diversity Inclusion and Social Justice Regarding to Children

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Rights and Social Inclusion: Homeless Children & Youth in the UK

Poverty and homelessness are of growing concern in all regions of the world, but the economic downturn of recent years is hitting developed nations rather hard and the UK is no exception. With inflated costs of living, inflated housing markets and limited resources for alternatives the homeless population is on the rise. Not only is this population on the rise but it is changing in demographic, with more and more families, but especially single parent households being affected on a much larger scale. The homeless population, which is both rural and urban is proportionate to welfare cuts and personal, familial economic distress and has become an increasing problem for families, especially women, children and independent youth. Many families are living one paycheque to the next and it should be assumed that most are just one paycheque from homelessness.

Global economic restructuring also has contributed to the marginalization and social isolation of low-income families & #8230; thereby restricting opportunities for normative youth development. (Tienda & Wilson, 2002, p. 4)

Those living in marginal conditions, have and increased rate of disease, both infectious and non-infectious, decreased longevity with very limited access to healthcare, and spend a good portion of their time seeking shelter, where there are far too few beds to serve them on a daily basis. Many homeless families and youth immigrate to highly taxed urban centers as a result of the fact that there are little to no services available where they live, in more rural settings. (Hardil, 2001, p. 62) This transnational immigration, often leaves them even more vulnerable, as the community where they seek shelter has little or any connection for them. In other words, children and youth leave their schools, their schoolmates, their friendly neighbors, extended families and most importantly their schools all potential historical and current centers of personal help, shelter, information and inclusion. Homeless youth already living in urban areas are shown to be equally disenfranchised as a result of the fact that all the services, industry and access points rarely coincide with the traditional protection that their microcommunity has provided in the past. Homeless families are especially vulnerable with either one or two parents as the homeless infrastructure was not ultimately designed for families it was designed to serve individuals, and to a large degree single men. Families attempting to stay together often find themselves separated by the mere fact that the shelter system cannot accommodate large numbers of families but rather serves individuals and often simply for a single, or a short number of nights. In other words the family may be separated by gender and available space. For instance a mother and two male youth might be separated in single shelter or even in two or more shelters as a result of the fact that there are only beds for single women and single men. The difficulty of reconnecting and establishing some sort of familial norm becomes harder and harder as the length of homelessness is extended. Additionally, the very condition of being homeless often leaves parents in a vulnerable state, as the inability to provide a home for one's children in and of itself indicates the idea of institutional neglect, which will allow authorities the right to separate families so children can be placed in foster care or homeless shelters designed specifically for children without stable families, a whole host of barriers must then be surmounted to regain physical and emotional family unity.

Children are in a particularly risky situation as most should be aware that children are a large part of the homeless population in the UK and elsewhere, and increasingly so and the significant trauma associated with homelessness, adding to all the other physical and social issues is particularly hard on children. They have little or no control over the situation they are in and have no recourse to change it, other than leaving the protection of their mothers' and/or fathers' where they are present (Conderman, Heimerl & Ketterhagen, 2001, p. 140) and seeking out independent shelter, which can lead them to a whole host of other dangerous and traumatic experiences. An idea pointed out above and by the Minnery & Greenhalgh is that no matter the definition of homelessness that is used the fundamental necessity is to develop systems that acknowledge that;

a critical factor is that homeless people are no longer seen as being almost exclusively male, alcohol-dependent transients (Crinall, 2001). Recent studies identify the emergence of the "newhomeless," defined as families, women, children, youth, the elderly, and marginalized ethnic or migrant groups (Forrest, 1999; Wearing, 1996). (Minnery & Greenhalgh, 2007, p. 643)

The face of homelessness has obviously changed and in order to respond to that change and reassert the human rights of those in this transient state programs and policies must change to meet the needs of this "new" population of homeless individuals, which includes a large subset of children and youth who have fundamentally different needs than any other subset of the homeless subculture. Another well made point offered by Minnery & Greenhalgh is that to a large degree the view of homelessness has begun to shift to one that does not see homelessness simply as an issue of poverty and/or deviance but as one of institutionalized social exclusion. The experts contend that this issue in and of itself should allow redress of policies and infrastructure that are much more comprehensive than simply providing shelter. In the face of youth as a new subset of this socially excluded population this includes but is not limited to attempting to aide individuals in finding long-term solutions to homelessness, which might begin with educational opportunities. School is a huge and fundamentally important function of youth. Through exposure to the normalcy of schooling many individuals can stabilize their lives to a degree that helps them reconnect with the broader society and allows them to step out, at least psychologically of the trap that homelessness can become. (Panter-Brick, 2002, p. 147)

There is a clear sense that homelessness, and the antecedents to it can lead to criminal behavior, on the part of the youth as well as on the part of others around them. Individuals can experience or be a party to substance abuse, petty crime, vice crime or even very serious crime that can become part of the standards of the subculture in which they live. (Wardhaugh, 2000)

One hundred and sixty-one homeless people (88% of those approached) and 107 domiciled subjects (60% of those approached) were interviewed. Sixty-nine per cent of homeless and a third of the domiciled subjects reported a childhood lacking in affection, with indifferent and often violent careers. Psychiatric disorder was identified in 62% of homeless respondents and a quarter of the domiciled population. A fifth of homeless and 5 domiciled respondents had attempted suicide in the previous year. Multivariate analysis suggest that childhood adversity, low educational attainment and the prior presence of psychiatric disorder all independently increase the likelihood of homelessness in a youthful population. The evidence presented in this paper supports the hypotheses that characterize the young homeless population as experiencing higher rates of childhood adversity and psychiatric disorder than their domiciled contemporaries. A tentative model is suggested whereby childhood experiences, educational attainment and the prior presence of psychiatric disorder all independently increase the likelihood of homelessness in a youthful population. (Craig & Hodson, 1998, p. 1379)

It is therefore, increasingly important to see these individuals not as perpetrators of crime and/or violence but as members of a socially excluded group that often find themselves unable to respond to the circumstances they find themselves in and use coping mechanisms, such as crime activity and/or substance abuse to "get by."

Data on the scale of homelessness (which is limited to young people who are in contact with services) indicates that at least 75,000 young people experienced homelessness in the UK in 2006 -- 07. (Quilgars, Johnsen & Pleace, 2008, p.1)

The children in these cases experience extreme displacement, having their lives disrupted significantly by losing their home, their classmates and friends as well as teachers and all the standard family routines and even possible future plans which become transient. Instead they now live in crowded shelters among people they do not know or trust, with their entire family in a single room, where they are expected to sleep, eat, cook, and even do homework. In addition to this parents are under extreme duress, communicative diseases are frequent and troubling in cramped conditions and almost all of them end up there as a result of something completely out of their control, the homelessness of their parents. "Their education is interrupted a lot. Their friendships never last, because they move around so much. In Toronto, one out of every five children coming into the care of the Children's Aid Society does so because of their parents' homelessness." (Hardil, 2001, p. 62) the cycle of homelessness for children compounds in social and emotional damage that… [END OF PREVIEW]

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