Coalition's Healthy Kids Fair Gives Homeless Children the Right Start to School
Free health screenings and school supplies mean homeless children in Metro Denver will have a better chance to succeed when they return to the classroom.
DENVER—Exam rooms at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless’ Stout Street Health Center will be packed Saturday, August 16 for the annual Back to School Healthy Kids Fair. More than 200 health care professionals and community members are volunteering their time to make sure over 200 homeless children receive immunizations, vision, hearing and dental screenings, and haircuts, giving the children a healthy start to the new school year.
The Coalition’s Healthy Kids Fair is here to help homeless parents who are struggling to provide food, shelter and other basic necessities. At the fair, these families will access vital health services, all in one place. “It’s so great to be able to offer one-stop access to so many specialists: the vaccines, hearing exams, dental check-ups, and eye glasses,” said Renee Shykind, PNP, the Coalition’s Pediatric Services Coordinator. While families wait at each station, children will be entertained with games and face painting. When they have completed their visit, all families will receive sack lunches and each child will leave with their very own new backpack full of school supplies.
Families with children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, due to a critical shortage of affordable housing across the country.[i] Because families typically stay in motels, doubled-up with friends, in shelters or transitional housing, this growing population often remains hidden. But one in 45 children in the United States is homeless, accounting for 1.6 million children each year.[ii] Of all the people experiencing homelessness in the seven-county Denver metro area; fifty-three percent are families with children.[iii]
Living without permanent, stable housing is detrimental to the healthy development of children. In fact, children experiencing homelessness are sick four times more often than housed children. Homeless children have lower birth weights and twice the likelihood of asthma.[iv] They also have twice as many ear infections, twice as many hospitalizations, and little to no dental care.[v]
The trauma and stress of homelessness also negatively impacts the academic and social development of children. Children who experience homelessness are more likely to score poorly on math, reading, spelling, and vocabulary tests, and to be held back a year in school.[vi] Homelessness can also lead to speech and language delays, behavioral problems, and a lack of adequate social skills. Additionally, homeless children are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, the result of repeated experiences of trauma.[vii] There were 23, 393 children and youth experiencing homelessness in the 2012-2013 school year in Colorado Public Schools.[viii]
The Healthy Kids Fair is made possible with the generous sponsorship of: Colorado Access, US Bank, Edukit, DISH Network, Reach Out and Read, Denver Early Childhood Council, and Pizza Fusion—providing funding, medical and school supplies, and volunteers for this event.
The Coalition is grateful for volunteers from: Advanced Audiology, Boy Scout Troop 870, Children’s Eye Physicians, Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Team Colorado, CU School of Nursing, Happy Teeth Dentistry, Healthy Communities, Heart Smart, KenCaryl Vision, and St. Andrew Youth Ministry.
The mission of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is to work collaboratively toward the prevention of homelessness and the creation of lasting solutions for homeless and at-risk families, children, and individuals throughout Colorado. CCH advocates for and provides a continuum of housing and a variety of services to improve the health, well-being and stability of those it serves.
With a singular purpose to end homelessness, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless opens the door to hope for more than 15,000 homeless adults and children each year. The Pediatric Clinic provided care for more than 1,562 children, youth and young adults in 2013.
[i] National Low Income Housing Coalition. (2014). Out of Reach. Available at http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/oor/2014OOR.pdf
[ii] Bassuk, E.L., et al. (2011). America's Youngest Outcasts 2010. National Center on Family Homelessness. Available at http://www.homelesschildrenamerica.org/media/NCFH_AmericaOutcast2010_web.pdf.
[iii] Metro Denver Homeless Initiative. (2014). 2014 State of Homelessness Report Seven-County Denver Metropolitan Region. Available at http://www.coloradocoalition.org/!userfiles/2014%20State%20of%20Homelessness%20Report%20Denver.pdf
[iv] Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness. (2012). Profiles of Risk No. 9: Child Health. Available at http://www.icphusa.org/filelibrary/ICPH_ProfilesofRisk_No.9_ChildHealth.pdf.
[v] National Center on Family Homelessness. (2009). America’s youngest outcasts: State report card on child homelessness. Available at http://www.homelesschildrenamerica.org/pdf/rc_full_report.pdf.
[vi] Family Housing Fund. (1999). Homelessness and Its Effects on Children. Available at http://www.fhfund.org/_dnld/reports/SupportiveChildren.pdf
[viii] Colorado Department of Education. (2014). Colorado Homeless Education Data Collection 2012-2013. Available at http://www.cde.state.co.us/dropoutprevention/mckinneyventohomelessdata1213.