Report: Child homelessness up 33% in 3 years

One in 45 children in the USA — 1.6 million children — were living on the street, in homeless shelters or motels, or doubled up with other families last year, according to the National Center on Family Homelessness.

he numbers represent a 33% increase from 2007, when there were 1.2 million homeless children, according to a report the center is releasing Tuesday.

“This is an absurdly high number,” says Ellen Bassuk, president of the center. “What we have new in 2010 is the effects of a man-made disaster caused by the economic recession. … We are seeing extreme budget cuts, foreclosures and a lack of affordable housing.”

The report paints a bleaker picture than one by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which nonetheless reported a 28% increase in homeless families, from 131,000 in 2007 to 168,000 in 2010.


America’s Youngest Outcasts

Executive Summary

America’s Youngest Outcasts 2010 updates a previous report created by The National Center on Family Homelessness titled America’s Youngest Outcasts: State Report Card on Child Homelessness. Our earlier report, based on 2006 data about the extent of the problem, was itself an update of a landmark study we issued in 1999 that provided the first comprehensive profile of America’s homeless children and families.

America’s Youngest Outcasts 2010 documents the numbers of homeless children in every state, their well-being, the risk for child homelessness, and state level planning and policy activities. Using findings from numerous sources that include well-established national data sets as well as our own research, we rank the states in each of four domains and then develop a composite of these domains to rank the states from 1 (best) to 50 (worst).

America’s Youngest Outcasts 2010 reports the following:

• 1.6 million American children, or one in 45 children, are homeless in a year.

• This equates to more than 30,000 children each week, and more than 4,400 each day.

• Children experiencing homelessness suffer from hunger, poor physical and emotional health, and missed educational opportunities.

• A majority of these children have limited educational proficiency in math and reading.

• Not surprisingly, the risks for child homelessness—such as extreme poverty and worst case housing needs—have worsened with the economic recession, even though the total housing capacity for families increased by more than 15,000 units in the past four years, primarily due to the federal Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP).

• Despite this bleak picture, planning and policy activities to support the growth and development of these vulnerable children remain limited. Sixteen states have done no planning related to child homelessness, and only seven states have extensive plans.

Although the majority of homeless children reside in a few states (50% reside in six states;

75% reside in 18 states), thousands and tens of thousands of children in every state go to sleep each night without a home to call their own. The numbers of homeless children in 2010 are likely undercounted since data collection procedures changed in California, reducing California’s reported total by 162,822 children in a single year, from 2009 to 2010. In the three previous data years (2007, 2008, 2009), California accounted for more than 25% of the nation’s homeless children.

America’s Youngest Outcasts 2010 also analyzes trends in child homelessness since the publication of our first Report Card:

2006: A Natural Disaster Strikes—
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita

• 1.5 million American children, more than one in 50 children, go to sleep without a home to call their own in 2006.

• A significant spike in child homelessness occurs due to 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, a historic natural disaster. The storms lead to one of the greatest mass migrations in our nation’s history, accounting for the large numbers of homeless children in 2006.

2007: Recovery from the Hurricanes—
Child Homelessness Drops by 25%

• 1.2 million American children, or one in 63 children, are homeless in 2007.

• The numbers of children experiencing homelessness decrease dramatically as families resettle after the two hurricanes. There are more than 385,000 fewer homeless children in
2007 from 2006, a reduction of 25%.

• In the six states most impacted by Katrina and Rita, the numbers of homeless children decrease by more than 450,000 (Mississippi was an exception, with their numbers slightly increasing).

2007-2010: A Man-Made Disaster Strikes,
Pushing Child Homelessness Up by 38%

• Financial speculation sparks collapse of the housing market and financial institutions, a stock market crash, and the Great Recession. The numbers of homeless children increase by more than 448,000 from 2007 to 2010. 1.6 million (one in 45 children) are homeless in 2010—that is a 38% spike from 2007.

• Only five states report decreases in the numbers of homeless children from 2007 to 2010.

• Fallout from the man-made disaster is worse than the natural disaster, driving the national total of homeless children above the hurricane year (2006) by more than 60,000 children.

• All states are adversely affected by the economic downturn; changes in the structural determinants that contribute to the risk of homelessness vary by state.

In addition to documenting the extent of child homelessness, the well-being of homeless children, risk factors for child homelessness, and policy responses, America’s Youngest Outcasts 2010 offers solutions to this national tragedy. Mindful of the severe constraints that our struggling economy is placing on institutions and individuals, we recommend affordable policy strategies in the areas of housing, child care, education, domestic violence, and employment that will help stabilize children and families who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness.

We also urge that programs addressing and preventing child and family homelessness not be cut further.

America’s Youngest Outcasts 2010 is a call to action for all of us to address child homelessness before we lose another generation. Please join us in demanding a rapid response now so our next Report Card can paint a brighter picture of our nation’s most vulnerable children.

Full report below…



America’s Youngest Outcasts