Are there any homeless children in Denmark?

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The question is not comforting. Most of us cannot handle the idea of children being homeless with everything it entails of insecurity, lack of a daily rhythm, uncertainty about where to sleep next, absence of grown-ups and personal stuff etc.

 

Unfortunately, the answer to the question about whether or not there are homeless children in Denmark is yes. The national mapping of homeless people in Denmark in 2017 shows that there were at least 39 homeless children under the age of 18 in Denmark in week 6 in 2017. Five of these 39 children were unaccompanied by their parents. They were all 17 years old.

In a previous article, we have described the general growth of the number of homeless women – from 22 % in 2015 to 25 % in 2017. The latest mapping shows that an increasing number of women with children are affected by homelessness. It is both worrying and shameful that some children in our society are growing up with homelessness as their basic conditions. In addition, as seen below, there are probably far more homeless children in Denmark than the 39 shown by the latest mapping.

The researchers behind the mapping of homelessness in Denmark argue that there are more homeless children in Denmark, than the 39 who have been registered on the questionnaires used during the mapping. All through the mapping, 250 homeless women and 44 homeless men have stated that they have the parenting role of children. Since there have not been registered more than the before mentioned 39 on the questionnaires, a bigger group of children accordingly must have been registered with a parent.

But where are these homeless children and their mothers staying? It appears by the mapping that 31% of the homeless women with a parenting role of children spend the night at family and friends’ houses. For men, this number is 2%. The relatively high percentage of women indicates that these women seek to take care of their situation by getting help from their network. At first, this solution sounds both constructive and solicitous but staying the night at family and friends’ houses is not a long-term solution since, as we mentioned in a previous article, couch surfing tends to wear friendships and goodwill out. Moreover, the women risk causing more harm and insecurity into the children’s upbringing by couch surfing.

 

We do not have an exact knowledge about the causes of this increase in the number of homeless women taking care of children. However, VIVE points out that some explanations can be on one hand the pressing housing situation and on the other hand the implementation of the social benefits reform in 2016.

Projekt UDENFOR has previously critiqued the implementation of the social benefits reform and its consequences for single women with children. In an article (LINK) about the implementation of the social benefits reform, we referred to an equality report made by the Ministry of Employment in 2015. This report concluded that the new social benefits legislation and the 225 hours rule, that says you must work 225 hours a year to get full social benefits, affect women in 7 out of 10 cases.

Furthermore, we referred to an investigation from Rådet for Socialt Udsatte, which indicates that there are 43.500 children living in families that will be affected by the upper limit of social benefits.

 

Finally, we focused on a study from the Rockwool Fond (LINK). This study proves that there is a connection between social benefits and the risk of neglecting children.

 

The three above-mentioned studies seen in context with VIVE’s mapping of homeless women should make both experts and politicians concerned. They should be concerned because most of the children registered as homeless in the mapping, are children of mothers who are receiving social benefits. These children are in imminent risk of neglect, failed upbringing, developing a mental illness and – in the worst case – chronical homelessness.

 

These children didn’t have a choice. The upbringing society is offering them is indecent and harmful in the long term.

We must offer to help these homeless women and their children. An early and thorough social effort will be rewarding in the short run. The mapping done by VIVE shows that the percentage of homeless citizens with a mental illness or addiction is significantly lower within those homeless people who have the parental care of children compared to other homeless citizens.

 

This indicates that homeless women with children still have the strength and resources to fight homelessness.

May this important knowledge be a hint to the Minister of Social Affairs and her ongoing work targeting homelessness, which will pay off in the long run.