One in 50 children in the U.S. are homeless, and with more foreclosures and job losses expected this year, the numbers are likely to get worse.
A new report from the National Center on Family Homelessness estimates that between 2005 and 2006 roughly 1.5 million American children were homeless, according to Time. Researchers included in their definition of homelessness children living with their families in shelters, on the streets, or with other relatives. A similar study found that in 2000 there were 1.35 million homeless children.
About three quarters of homeless children are elementary school age and 42% are below age six. Homeless children are twice as likely to be held back a grade in school, to be suspended, or to drop out of high school. Roughly one quarter of homeless children have witnessed violence and many suffer from depression and anxiety.
Families with children make up about one-third of the country's homeless population. Due to Hurricane Katrina, Texas, Louisiana, and Georgia have some of the highest rates or child homelessness, with California and Florida also topping the list. MSNBC reports that the study found only six states have extensive programs to combat child homelessness, while 24 states were given an "inadequate" grade.
Since the 1980s the number homeless single mothers has been on the rise due to increased divorce rates, wage disparities, and the scarcity of affordable housing. According to Time, officials say the home foreclosure crisis will probably add more middle-class black and Latino families to the homeless demographic. "If we could freeze-frame it now, it would be bad enough," writes Democratic Sen. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, in the forward to the report. "By end of this year, it will be that much worse."
Despite the recession, the National Center on Family Homelessness claims that it is possible to end child homelessness in the U.S. within a decade, if national and state governments takes action now. A decade ago the Department of Housing and Urban Development spent barely $1 billion on homeless programs each year. Currently, states are waiting to receive the $1.5 billion from the stimulus package devoted to homelessness prevention programs, which will provide short-term rental and mortgage assistance, and money for security deposits and utility bills. "If we fail to act," said the report, "the consequences will play out for years to come as a generation of lost children grow to adulthood."