Poverty is a silent specter that haunts many cities across the world, and Houston, Texas, is no exception. When people think of poverty or housing instability, they often consider homelessness as its only manifestation, but this is just one of its manifestations: many other impoverished people don’t live on the streets, but still suffer desperately from a lack of funds. They may have to make difficult decisions about whether to eat or to pay the electric bill, and they might not be able to afford all the necessities for their children, which places their young ones at a severe disadvantage in the game of life. Here are a few ways that poverty most deeply impacts the most vulnerable members of society, as well as what families facing poverty and housing instability can do to get out of their situation and make a better life for their children.
A lack of high-quality food leaves children without the nutrition necessary to thrive
Children are growing rapidly, and with that, they require a wide array of fruits, vegetables, and protein sources in order to maintain adequate health. A lack of adequate nutrition shows up most acutely in cognitive development, as children with poor quality diets demonstrate cognitive deficiency when compared to their peers with better diets. As intelligence is such a large factor in later success, poor diets set children up for lower achievement throughout their lifespan, which can power intergenerational poverty.
It’s clear that parents must prioritize a great diet for their children, but with little money to go around, they may have to select the most cost-effective foods, which may be calorie dense but lacking in nutrients. A child’s stomach may be full, but their bodies may still not be getting what it needs to grow.
Impoverished families may need to move frequently, which can endanger a child’s social development
Stability is essential for children: it helps them feel safe, and it also allows them to develop close connections with their peers and with a larger support group. Friendships in childhood teach children boundaries, conflict resolution, and social norms, which are essential to later happiness and success in life.
However, it’s hard for children to get close to their peers if their family is housing unstable, as they may need to move frequently as they are priced out of rental properties. This means that a child may start the year in one school, but end it in another, which can make it difficult to develop close relationships and get to know others in their group. They may even shy away from social interaction, as they know that they will have to move soon, and that separating from those they’ve become close to will be painful, especially as they may not know how to keep in contact with them later.
This sets children up for unstable relationships in adulthood, which can make it difficult for them to make friends, fit in with peers at work, or pursue romantic relationships. Impoverished children often grow up to be lonely, anxious adults: another reason why it’s so essential that parents work to keep their family life stable as much as possible.
Impoverished children may develop emotional and behavioral problems
Children are highly attuned to the environment around them, and they can quickly sense when things aren’t right at home. Watching their parents stress about finances will trickle down to the children’s own sense of wellbeing, and it can cause them to act out due to this unease. Children in poverty may develop anxiety or aggression, and they may find negative outlets for this stress which imperil their academic achievement and themselves. As education is so essential to a person’s later success, being unable to focus on school can translate to lower college admission rates and lower-paying jobs.
Help is available for Houston area families struggling with poverty
For those struggling, there are numerous charities and nonprofit organizations seeking to eliminate poverty by empowering parents to change their circumstances. Families can pursue Houston rental assistance through organizations like Raise up Families, which provides financial aid to keep families in their homes.
Better yet, these programs also teach budgeting and financial literacy, such as how to improve one’s credit score and use credit cards effectively. This can help families take better advantage of the funds available to them, which can help them develop financial security and stability.
Many of those who utilize these services are able to stay in their homes and even achieve higher-paying jobs that further buffers them against homelessness and financial instability. All this translates into a healthier, safer environment for children, who can then grow into happy, well-adjusted, and successful adults. It’s always possible to change one’s circumstances for the better, and financial assistance through programs like Raise Up Families is the best way for Houston families to do just that.