America is often seen as the land of opportunity, where everyone can make it if they work hard and believe in their own abilities. This image is the reason why so many have struggled to immigrate here, bringing their families and planning to develop a brand new life in a big country where their future seems limitless.
On the surface, this belief seems to hold true, especially in Texas. The largest state by landmass in the lower 48 states, Texas is known for being a hub of innovation, with some of the largest companies in the United States being headquartered or holding offices in the state. Houston is especially bright in the firmament of commerce, with numerous large companies employing thousands of Houstonians and bringing in millions of dollars for the local economy.
However, the reality of America isn’t quite so rosy for many Houston families, who are struggling to make ends meet. Today, we’ll explore some of the reasons why Houstonians may find themselves on the brink of homelessness – and where they can go for help.
Poverty continues to grow in the Houston area
Even as the local economy skyrockets thanks to new investments and innovation, the divide between rich and poor gapes ever wider. According to the Neighborhood Poverty Project, the poverty rate in Houston proper rose from 13% in 1980 to 20% in 2018, representing thousands more Houstonians that are struggling to pay their bills. Almost half a million people live below the poverty line; even more heartbreaking is the fact that many of these individuals are children. Across the Houston metropolitan area, 23% of children under the age of five were impoverished, which is far higher than the national average.
Children in poverty experience a wide variety of adverse outcomes
The effects of poverty on children can’t be overemphasized: it’s an enormous impact on both their current health and their future success.
The first consideration is that of nutrition, which is essential to a child’s growth. As children are growing rapidly, they need high-quality, readily available nutrition from a variety of food groups, especially protein to support their muscle tone. Children who do not have adequate nutrition show poor growth rates, especially in the context of brain development.
As the brain uses a large proportion of the body’s energy, it is especially vulnerable to malnutrition. Studies show that those who did not receive adequate nutrition as a child have lower cognitive performance and test scores, and they may struggle to achieve academically, which imperils their future success.
There’s also the fact that increased stress from poverty can make it difficult for children to focus in school, and they may show behavioral problems due to the problems they’re facing at home. Children who are housing unstable may frequently move schools as their family hunts for rental properties they can afford, which means they won’t have the support of a peer group and consistent mentor figures like teachers in their lives.
Children whose families are facing homelessness or extreme poverty may feel helpless, frustrated, and confused. While adults in poverty can often develop healthy coping skills or learn to manage their stress, children are still learning how to identify and respond to their feelings, meaning they are highly vulnerable to high stress situations.
Poverty is everywhere in Houston, and unfortunately, it is the most innocent members of society who suffer the most from housing instability and its attendant problems. Children bear the brunt of the consequences of poverty, but they have little access to resources that can help and guide them, which is why it’s essential that adults step in and support these struggling families.
Assistance is available to Houston families struggling with poverty
Everyone needs some help sometimes, but the best type of help is that which encourages self-sufficiency and teaches skills that will lead to future success. Financial assistance in Houston, such as programs like Raise Up Families, is designed to help parents with short-term cash assistance and also provide the structure and support that families need. These programs teach financial literacy to parents while giving them a sense of community, which they can then lean on as they work to raise themselves out of poverty.
Studies show that these types of programs – those that pair financial assistance with support systems and teaching – have the best outcomes for the entire family system, including children. Nearly everyone who utilizes these programs finds that their circumstances improve, such as maintaining steady employment, staying in one place so that children have stability, and even going on to earn higher wages through further training.
Don’t hesitate to reach out – you and your children deserve it
The idea of asking for help can be very intimidating, especially in the United States, where people pride themselves on self-sufficiency. However, everyone needs support sometimes, and there’s no shame in seeking help. It can make the difference between a healthy, high-achieving child and one struggling with health issues and low academic performance. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, please seek support from organizations like Raise Up Families: it will be a life-changing experience for everyone in your family.