Pittsburgh City Council and Allegheny County Council have proclaimed October 15-23 Homeless Children's Awareness Week, with numerous events planned to raise awareness about the issue. Executive Director of the Homeless Children's Education Fund, Bill Wolfe, said children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.
"The Pennsylvania Department of Education, for the 2010-2011 school year, identified 1,700 children enrolled in Allegheny County schools who were experiencing homelessness," said Wolfe.
These children face several obstacles, including frequent moves which disrupt their education. The National Coalition for the Homeless cites studies that show 3-6 months of education are lost with every move. In general, these children have a hard time keeping up with their peers.
"The national dropout rate for children experiencing homelessness is 60% higher than a child who does not have that experience during school time," said Wolfe.
For over a decade, the Homeless Children's Education Fund has been working to ensure that homeless youth have access to the same educational opportunities as other kids, in an effort to combat such statistics. This is done in several different ways.
"After-school programs, access to computers, access to libraries, and also raise the awareness in the community that these children exist and need community and school support [in]," said Wolfe.
Homeless Children's Awareness Week kicks off Saturday with a 5k run/walk through Frick Park, and other events throughout the week. This is the first-ever Homeless Children Awareness Week not just in Pittsburgh, but in the nation. Wolfe said the hope is that other communities will follow with their own awareness efforts.