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Letter to the editor: Addressing the impact of homelessness on children with disabilities

Dear Editor:

Homelessness is a devastating experience for any family, but its impact is particularly profound when children with disabilities are involved. This is especially timely as we approach the end of April which is World Autism Month. Vulnerable children with disabilities face unique challenges and are at an increased risk of experiencing trauma and instability. There are many specific challenges faced by families with children who have disabilities and as Executive Director of Family Promise in the Coastal Empire, our nonprofit organization is committed to working to lessen the trauma and provide support to these families.

Children with disabilities already face numerous obstacles in their daily lives, including access to education, healthcare, and social opportunities. When homelessness is added to the mix, these challenges are exacerbated. Homelessness disrupts routines, increases stress levels, and limits access to essential resources and support systems. For children with disabilities, who often thrive on consistency and specialized care, the upheaval caused by homelessness can be especially detrimental to their well-being.

Moreover, children with disabilities are more likely to experience long-term homelessness compared to their peers without disabilities. This prolonged exposure to unstable living conditions can have lasting effects on their physical and mental health, educational attainment, and overall development. Without proper intervention and support, these children are at risk of falling further behind and facing increased barriers to success later in life.

Family Promise recognizes the unique needs of families with children who have disabilities and is dedicated to providing them with the support and resources they need to thrive. Through its network of affiliates and programs, Family Promise offers a holistic approach to addressing homelessness, focusing on prevention, emergency short-term housing, and post-program support.

Family Promise understands that preventing homelessness in the first place is crucial, especially for families with vulnerable children. We work proactively to identify families at risk of homelessness and provide them with financial assistance, case management, and access to community resources to help them maintain stable housing.

For families who do experience housing insecurity, Family Promise offers emergency short-term housing in a safe and supportive environment. We partner with local congregations to provide temporary housing, meals, and access to essential services. Our families receive personalized case management and support to address their unique needs, including those related to disabilities.

Family Promise's commitment to families doesn't end when they leave our emergency short-term housing program. We provide ongoing support and assistance to help families transition to permanent housing and achieve long-term stability. This includes assistance with childcare, transportation barriers, employment, education, healthcare, and other essential needs.

By addressing the root causes of homelessness and providing comprehensive support to families, Family Promise aims to break the cycle of homelessness and create brighter futures for children with disabilities and their families.

The impact of homelessness on children with disabilities is profound and far-reaching, especially during National Autism Awareness Month. However, with the support of organizations like Family Promise, families can find hope and stability in the face of adversity. By offering prevention services, emergency shelter, and post-program support, Family Promise works tirelessly to lessen the trauma of homelessness and empower families to build brighter futures for themselves and their children, regardless of their abilities.

Katrina Bostick, Executive Director, Family Promise of the Coastal Empire

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