Common Dreams--11/17/2014--by Jon Queally, staff writer
Prepared by the National Center on Family Homelessness, the report--America’s Youngest Outcasts (pdf)—shows that with poverty and inequality soaring in recent years, approximately 2.5 million children in 2013 found themselves without a roof over their head or place to call home. That number equals one in 30 American children nationally, and constitutes an 8 percent increase over the previous year.
"Child homelessness has reached epidemic proportions in America," said Dr. Carmela DeCandia, director of the NCFH, in a statement. "Children are homeless to night in every city, county and state — in every part of our nation.”
According to a fact sheet (pdf)released alongside the study:
Research shows that homeless children are hungry and sick more often. They wonder if they will have a roof over their heads at night and what will happen to their families. Many homeless children struggle in school, missing days, repeating grades, and drop out entirely. Up to 25% of homeless pre-school children have mental health problems requiring clinical evaluation; this increases to 40% among homeless school-age children.
The impacts of homelessness on the children, especially young children, may lead to changes in brain architecture that can interfere with learning, emotional self-regulation, cognitive skills, and social relationships. The unrelenting stress experienced by the parents may contribute to residential instability, unemployment, ineffective parenting, and poor health.
Dr. DeCandia notes that federal policies seeking to address the problem of homelessness among veterans and other chronically vulnerable adults have showed that improvements can be made, but says specific federal action to fight child homelessness has not been adequate to address the growing national crisis of homeless youth.
“Living in shelters, neighbors’ basements, cars, campgrounds, and worse — homeless children are the most invisible and neglected individuals in our society,” she said. “Without decisive action now, the federal goal of ending child homelessness by 2020 will soon be out of reach.”
If the situation does not change soon, she said, the society is "going to pay a high price, in human and economic terms."