The National Center on Family Homelessness just released A Report Card on Child Homelessness—America’s Youngest Outcasts. They documented that nearly 2.5 million children are now homeless in our country each year---that’s one out of thirty children.
We must all pause and consider that in every classroom one child has experienced homelessness. What does this mean for the future of our country and the future of these children?
The Report Card documented that in the school year 2012 to 2013, the numbers of children experiencing homelessness increased nationally by 8% from the previous year. A majority of the states—31% and the District of Columbia (DC)—experienced this increase—and in 13 states and in DC the number increased by 10%.
The Report Card ranked each state based on four dimensions: 1) the extent of the problem, 2) child well-being, 3) risks of child homelessness, and 4) policy and planning activities. At the bottom were Alabama, Mississippi, California, Arkansas, and New Mexico.
These disturbing numbers fly in the face of various media reports based on the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) point in time count that claim a decrease in the numbers of families experiencing homelessness. Despite ongoing disagreements about the definition of homelessness and counting strategies, we believe these numbers are reliable and if anything, an underestimate. They are based on calculations using the Department of Education’s count of homeless children in public schools from 2012-2013, and data collected from the 2013 US Census on non-school aged children.
The numbers represent an historic high and a dramatic increase from the previous school year. Once again we must ask the question of how a country as affluent as ours can have such a large number of homeless children and a number that continues to climb. Why hasn’t there been public outrage about these numbers and a robust bipartisan response?
We know how to respond. Together, we must mobilize the political will to make that happen.