Updated Report on Homelessness Confronts “America’s Youngest Outcasts”

America's Youngest Outcasts

A new report from the National Center on Family Homelessness published just before the new year, America’s Youngest Outcasts 2010 [pdf], documents the numbers of homeless children in every state, their well-being, their risk for child homelessness, and state level planning and policy activities. An update to their 2006 report, this publication found that 1.6 million American children, or one in 45 children, are homeless in a year–equivalent to more than 30,000 children each week, and more than 4,400 each day.

Not surprisingly, homelessness, a hugely challenging out-of-school factor for students, has worsened during the economic recession. The report found a tie between homelessness and hunger, poor physical and emotional health, and missed educational opportunities.  These hardships were affiliated with limited educational proficiency in math and reading for students.

Using findings from numerous sources that include national data sets as well as their own research, the report ranked states in four domains: extent of child homelessness (adjusted for population size), child well-being, risk for child homelessness, and state policy and planning efforts. The top ranked states (doing the best to combat homelessness) are:

  1. Vermont
  2. Minnesota
  3. Nebraska
  4. North Dakota
  5. Maine
  6. New Hampshire
  7. New Jersey
  8. Massachusetts [pdf]
  9. Montana
  10. Iowa

Rounding out the lowest ranked states were Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama. Check out this interactive map to find out how your state ranked, or read the report card [pdf] with details about all 50 states.

For more information:

Another 60 Minutes Piece on Children in Poverty

To follow up on a story aired last March about the sharp increases in child poverty, 60 Minutes last night continued its “Hard Times Generation” theme with a piece about homeless families living in cars in Seminole County, Florida.

Recently revised Census numbers show the child poverty rate hovering around 17 to 21%. Research shows that even housing insecurity–a step before homelessness–puts children at risk for poor health and developmental delays. A program in Seminole County schools, Families in Transition, is trying to help homeless children and their families by working with 50 partners in the community. Beth Davalos, a social worker with Families in Transition, said:

“The longevity of homelessness continues to rise, so people are running out of resources. The unemployment runs out. Their savings run out. The family that lent them money does not have it anymore ’cause they’re looking at economic hardship. And before you know it they find themselves living in their car because they ran out of all options.”

Watch the full 60 Minutes piece here:

How Housing Insecurity Impacts Children

The Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity is running a series of commentaries in November and December exploring the relationship between housing and health, economic opportunity, and education. The second installment in the series, “The Housing Vaccine: Why Housing Matters to Young Children,” considers the impact housing can have on a child, from birth through the early years of development. Pediatricians Megan Sandel and Deborah A. Frank of  Children’s HealthWatch write that a safe home is as important to children as vaccines–both keep them healthy. They address the concept of “housing insecurity,” defined as doubling up with other families for economic reasons, overcrowding, or moving two or more times in a year, which puts children at risk for poor health and developmental delays.

In Boston Public Schools, moving between schools, or “mobility,” impacts 25% of students, putting them at risk for low academic performance, behavior problems, and absenteeism. This is more than twice the state average of 10%. Housing subsidies, write Drs. Sandel and Frank, will protect families from both housing insecurity and food insecurity:

“Similar to receiving one shot against multiple diseases,  young children who live in subsidized housing are much more likely to be  ‘well’—developmentally normal, not underweight or overweight, in good or excellent health, and  with no history of hospitalizations.”

For more information:

  • Visit the home page of the series, where you can read the other commentaries
  • Follow the Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity on Twitter @PovertyNews