Case Report: Emotional and Cognitive Impact of Chronic Homelessness on a Child

“Homelessness is severe trauma. It stays with you the rest of your life. In the two years I was homeless, the main thing that was reinforced within me was that I was not worthwhile, that I did not belong, not only to the community, but maybe even to humankind.” -Zenobia Embrey-Nimmer (Friedman 2000)

Initially thought to be a problem associated with individuals with addiction and mental illness, the face of homelessness has changed over the past thirty years. Homeless families now comprise more than one-third of the entire homeless population (National Center on Family Homelessness 2008). Within these families experiencing homelessness, 42 percent of the children are under age six, a crucial time for development of educational, cognitive, social and emotional skills (Guarino 2010).

For this reason, the focus of this case report is on the effects of chronic homelessness on the cognitive and emotional development of children ages zero to five. The long-term effects of infant and early childhood chronic homelessness are not fully understood. This case report describes the experience of one child and may help to illuminate the unique challenges in providing health care services to a family experiencing chronic homelessness and specific interventions to prevent long-term damage to the cognitive and emotional functioning of homeless children.

Publication Date: 
Meinbresse M
Nashville, TN, USA