Homelessness doesn’t just affect the individual. As the economy continues to struggle, local agencies are seeing more and more families being left without a roof over their heads.
Editor’s note: The following feature is the third in a seven-part series on homelessness in Richmond written by students taking part in “Reporting for Print and Web,” an undergraduate journalism course led by by Jeff South, Associate Professor at VCU’s School of Mass Communications. Check back weekly for future installments.
The economy is squeezing more people than ever, and homelessness is becoming a growing problem among families.
Experts estimate more than 18,000 of Virginia’s children experience homelessness each year. That’s 8 percent of the 220,000 children living in poverty in Virginia.
The number of homeless children is likely to rise – and that poses a challenge to service providers, said Susan Sekerke, assistant director of development and external affairs at the Daily Planet, which helps the homeless in Richmond.
“What we are seeing now is where we have the complete family unit; we have the mother, the father and kids. Technically, none of our shelters are set for that, as far as rooms and how you keep teenage boys away from teenage girls and all that kind of stuff,” Sekerke said.
“This is something as a system that we are looking at right now, because we only expect it to increase at least for the next year, maybe 18 months.”
In January, a census of homeless people in Richmond counted 136 children. Sekerke has been working at the Daily Planet for almost a year and said she has seen an increase in homeless children during that time.
“Families who have been affected by the economy are now being seen in shelters. The fact is, maybe they have stayed with friends for as long as they could, and then perhaps moved to living in their car for as long as they could, before having to sell their car for money, and the next move would be a shelter,” Sekerke said.
“This is when a family ends up on a street. It definitely not an immediate thing; it is a progression over time.”
Previous installments in this series:
All articles and photos featured in this series are being published with the permission of Jeffrey South, Associate Professor, School of Mass Communications, Virginia Commonwealth University.