Before I joined the Center for Social Innovation, I worked at a residential treatment program for adolescent girls with behavioral health issues. All had experienced severe or recurring trauma. Most were neglected or abused by a person close to them. For some, their childhood trauma included periods of homelessness. They had spent time on the streets, in shelters, doubled up with friends or family members, and in unstable housing where they were one crisis away from another bout of homelessness.
December 2014. This is the time of year when newspapers and television programs pay attention to homelessness again. Unfortunately, homelessness doesn’t begin at Thanksgiving and end at New Years. For all too many men, women, children, and youth, homelessness is a painful, traumatic daily reality. America’s Youngest Outcasts, a state report card on child homelessness from the National Center on Family Homelessness, recently reported that 2.5 million children in America experienced homelessness over the past year. That shocking number, 2.5 million, means that 1 out of every 30 American children have been homeless in the last year. 2.5 million is roughly the size of the greater Kansas City metro area, or the population of Birmingham, Cleveland, Portland, and Albuquerque…combined. Imagine that: a city of 2.5 million people filled with children experiencing homelessness. It is hard to comprehend.
America’s Youngest Outcasts—The Report Card of Child Homelessness, released this week by the National Center on Family Homelessness, documented that a staggering number of children experience homelessness annually---2.5 million or one out of thirty. Why are the numbers so large and dramatically increasing?
This week the National Center on Family Homelessness released A Report Card on Child Homelessness—America’s Youngest Outcasts. They found that one out of thirty children were homeless in our country in 2013 – one out of every thirty. This number is so large it baffles the mind.
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.
How is it possible that in a country as affluent as ours a dramatically growing number of children and youth are experiencing homelessness—by some counts almost 2 million kids annually. In fact, in school year 2011-2012, the numbers were at an historic high. Although we seem to agree that children are our nation’s future, their needs have not been adequately addressed in our federal plan to end homelessness. How is it that children are expendable?
It is not news that housing remains out of reach for millions of Americans, including many working parents and their children. Currently, 3.3 million American workers earn minimum wage or less, and there is no place in our entire country in which a family supported by a parent working full-time and earning minimum wage can afford to pay market rent for even a one-bedroom apartment.
Homelessness is devastating. First, it is a painful, often terrifying, traumatic experience for people who become homeless and for those who love them. Second, homelessness is an overwhelming social problem—one that weakens us as a nation and lays bare the underlying injustices that erode our country’s foundation. Homelessness does not represent a type of person or a set of bad decisions by an individual. Instead, it reflects the crossroads of all that is broken in our society: poverty; lack of affordable housing; unemployment; jobs that don’t pay livable wages; poor health care access; inadequate services for mental health, substance use, and trauma; an educational system that allows too many young people to slip through the cracks; fragmented families and dangerous neighborhoods; violence and victimization; racism; and social exclusion.