By Shirley N. Weber, California State Assembly, 79th District
We are all familiar with the images of homeless people living on the streets of San Diego and stories of families who have to move frequently or even leave our region because they cannot afford to live here.
Rarely discussed are the effects on our next generation stemming from the stress of not having a stable home.
The challenges of keeping up with homework and test preparation is difficult in the best of circumstances. But research has shown that a stable home is critical to kids reaching their full potential and the lack of affordable, long-term housing can negatively impact school performance.
There are many reasons why we need to solve the housing crisis. The impact on school-age children is one of the most important.
For this reason, we need to vote in favor of California Propositions 1 and 2 in November.
Prop 1, the Veterans and Affordable Housing Act, would preserve and build affordable housing by authorizing $4 billion in general obligation bonds for housing-related programs and housing loans for veterans.
Prop 2 authorizes the state to use Prop 63 tax revenue on $2 billion in bonds for homelessness prevention housing for people in need of mental health services.
The need for the funding from Props 1 and 2 is great. More than 1.5 million California households don’t have affordable housing. A third of Californians can’t afford their rent. At the same time, a lack of affordable housing has caused rents to climb. As a result, a significant number of residents spend more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing, with some spending as much as 50 percent.
Living on the edge like this means that children are often changing residences, and as a result, jumping from school to school. Research by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine has shown that “children who change schools, particularly if they change schools often or at critical points in their education, experience declines in educational achievement.”
Other studies confirm frequent residential moves and overcrowding, as families double up with relatives or live in shelters, also has a negative impact on school performance.
According to researchers from the Urban Institute, “Children thrive in stable and nurturing environments where they have a routine and know what to expect. Although some change in children’s lives is normal and anticipated, sudden and dramatic disruptions can be extremely stressful and affect children’s feeling of security.” When change is out of a parent’s control, they have difficulty serving as a buffer to their children, and this stress can be detrimental to children’s mental health and cognitive functioning, the studies show.
Our children represent the future of San Diego. Children who get a good education have a better chance of growing up to become contributing members of our society and our economy, increasing the wealth for all San Diegans. Homelessness on the other hand, contributes to the cycle of poverty that is so difficult to break out of.
We need to support Props 1 and 2 in the November election for the sake of our children. Because our children are the future of San Diego.
This article originally appeared in the San Diego Voice.