According to the Oklahoma Department of Education, Drug Abuse is a Factor in the Rising Number of Homeless Children

homeless child

According to data collected by school districts and reported to the state, thousands of Oklahoma children fall asleep each night on the couches or beds of friends or relatives, hundreds more stay in a hotel or motel, and some even sleep in a shelter or on the streets. Obviously, this surge in homeless students is a great cause for concern among school officials, lawmakers and child advocates, who seek to find answers. According to recent information, it seems that drug abuse and addiction problems may partly be to blame.

Homeless Students in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Department of Education has collected information from school districts across the state and uncovered the fact that the number of homeless students rose forty-three percent in just two years – from over seventeen thousand five hundred homeless students in the 2011-2012 school year to over twenty-five thousand homeless students in the 2013-2014 school year. While they have not yet compiled the figures for the 2014-2015 school year, early estimates by education officials indicate that they may exceed last year’s total.

Aliah, a sophomore in Tulsa Public Schools, knows firsthand that homelessness can have traumatic impacts on children and their families. One-fifth of her entire life has been spent homeless; she has been in three foster homes, six homeless shelters, and even a mental health facility. She was moved around to nine different schools during her freshman year. Now, Aliah is staying with her mother at a Catholic Charities transitional apartment. She admits that the instability caused by her homeless condition has affected her in many different ways, including her ability to effectively complete her schooling. After all, how can one be expected to keep their grades up when they are constantly moving and shifting in their personal life – and attending nine different schools in a single school year? These individuals may be far more concerned about where they will sleep that night – or how they will get their next meal – than about their test at school.

The alarming rise of homeless students across the state has caused state Senator Kate Floyd to author a bill requiring the gathering of more precise data on homeless children. The idea is to use this information to shape future state policies regarding child homelessness. Currently, the reasons for this alarming problem are not entirely clear, but many experts indicate that poverty, teen pregnancy, incarceration, mental illness and drug abuse are all possible factors.

Drug Abuse and Homelessness

Drug abuse may only be one of the possible reasons a child can wind up homeless, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. When a child has parents that suffer from drug abuse and addiction problems, they are often also suffering extensively. Drug abusing parents may neglect their child, and worry more about obtaining and using drug substances than they worry about maintaining a stable home or supporting and caring for their child. They may feel embarrassed or ashamed about their condition, and they may hide it from others who would be able to assist them and their child in stabilizing their lives. As a result, their children wind up in some form of homelessness, and their ability to participate in and complete their full schooling is threatened, which can then affect the rest of their lives.

The rising numbers of homeless children in the state of Oklahoma is just one more reason why the war against drug use, abuse and addiction is so critical, and why drug education and prevention measures are so vital.

AUTHOR

Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.