FORT MYERS, Fla. (August 12, 2013) – As the new school year begins, the Lee County Homeless Coalition encourages the community to consider the many children in our community facing homelessness. According to Project ACCESS, a program for all homeless children and youth referred through The School District of Lee County, there were 1,450 children reported as homeless in Lee County during the 2012-2013 school year.
Posted to YouTube.com and currently airing on numerous local networks, the Lee County Homeless Coalition has released a public service announcement (PSA) to bring awareness and encourage the community to join the cause against child homelessness.
According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, children experiencing homelessness are sick four times more often than other children. In addition, they have four times as many respiratory infections, twice as many ear infections, five times more gastrointestinal problems, and are four times more likely to have asthma. Children that are homeless have high rates of obesity due to nutritional deficiencies and have three times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems compared to non-homeless children. Aside from health issues, homeless children are four times more likely to show delayed development and are twice as likely to have learning disabilities as non-homeless children. By the age of 12, 83 percent of homeless children have been exposed to at least one serious violent event, and almost 25 percent have witnessed acts of violence within their families.
Children that are homeless also go hungry at twice the rate of other children. In Lee County, 70 percent of all children are eligible for free or reduced lunch, with some areas as high as 98 percent. The School District of Lee County, along with Project ACCESS, assists children and families struggling with homelessness by providing free uniforms and clothing vouchers, school supplies, public transportation passes and referrals to more than 70 human service agencies, including the Lee County Homeless Coalition.
“To be successful at educating our students, we must first help them in times of crisis. No child should wonder where they are going to sleep at night or when they will have their next meal,” said Mary Fischer, chairman of board for The School District of Lee County, “The safety and security of our students is the number one priority for Lee County Public Schools, and together with our community partners, we are here to help.”
The Lee County Homeless Coalition’s PSA on child homelessness is one of three commercials produced by the agency. The other two, focusing on veteran homelessness and the “new face” of homelessness, can also be found on the Lee County Homeless Coalition’s YouTube.com channel, as well as the coalition’s Facebook page and on local television networks. If you or anyone you know in Lee County is suffering from homelessness or challenges that could lead to homelessness, call 211 or contact the Lee County Homeless Coalition at 239-332-6600 or visit www.LeeHomeless.org for help.