Homeless Athletes: The Power of Sports and the Struggle to SurviveHousing & Homelessness
Sports Illustrated conducted a six-month investigation of homelessness among young student athletes and found that there are over 100,000 homeless student athletes in the United State. The result is a powerful and emotional report giving a voice to these student’s hardships. SI covers the cold statistics of homeless student athletes, with numerous vividly illustrated stories from the athletes themselves. These homeless students share tehir hardships, overcoming child poverty, and working towards their goals. The Young, Gifted, and Homeless cover story and video is available online now.
The Department of Education identified over 1.2 million homeless students in the 2012-2013 school year, a record high. Our presumptions of the homeless are those who are sleeping on benches, or under bridges. But this is not the reality for homeless children. Their reality is hopping from place to place, crashing from couch to couch, and not having a stable environment for their safety and health.
For homeless students, activities like sports can offer stability. High school student Tritta Dixon of Oklahoma City says to Sports Illustrated, “Confidence is something I struggled with through life and when I started playing basketball, it boosted my confidence, my communication, and my attitude with something’s in life.” The students are using their talents with sports to overcome the struggle, focus on their futures and the ability they have to be great in life.
Most homeless athletes face hunger, abuse, and emotional stress. Isaiah Lamb of Baltimore explains, “My mother was always on me about getting good grades and going to college, do what you love in order to get off what is on your mind on what’s going. If it wasn’t for basketball I would probably be in the streets, with some knuckleheads doing something bad.”
The students share their stories of how they became homeless in different ways. But the one common aspect of all their stories is wondering where their next meal is coming from? Where are they going to sleep tonight? Trying to focus and concentration in class is tough when distracted by these wondering thoughts –
“How do you sign up for leagues when you don’t have a permanent address? How do you arrive at practice on time when you have to take three public buses and a subway to get to school? How do you add muscle or stay in shape when dinner often consists of a 99-cent cheeseburger or a snack from a vending machine? How do you fit into a team when you’re hiding a secret?”
There is bipartisan legislation in Congress that would address many of the barriers discussed by the student athletes. The Homeless Children and Youth Act (HR 5186/S 2653) would help student athletes and their families access the critical services they need to transition to housing stability. Specifically, this legislation would amend the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development definition of homelessness to include children and youth who are verified as homeless by other federal program personnel, such as those working in schools with homeless student athletes.
To take action to support these homeless student athletes, go to www.helphomelesskidsnow.org.