America’s Youngest Outcasts 2013, a report from The National Center on Family Homelessness (NCFH), states that approximately 2.5 million children were homeless in 2013. The report highlights findings on child homelessness since 2006, and provides data and rankings for each state and the District of Columbia.
From 2012 to 2013, the number of homeless children increased in 31 states and the District of Columbia, with an 8% increase nationally. In thirteen states and the District of Columbia the number of homeless children increased by 10% or more. A similar report by NCFH in 2006 showed that 1 in 50 children were homeless; their 2010 report showed that 1 in 45 children were homeless. The latest shows that in 2013, 1 in 30 children were homeless. Although homelessness among individuals and veterans has declined in recent years, the number of homeless children in the United States has reached a historic high.
The NCFH report ranks each state on a scale of 1 (best) to 50 (worst) based on a composite score reflecting each state’s performance across four measures: extent of child homelessness, child well-being, risk for child homelessness, and state policy and planning efforts. Taking all four scores together, the report shows that the states with the best composite scores were Minnesota, Nebraska, and Massachusetts, while the states with the worst scores were Alabama, Mississippi, and California.
The first measure, extent of homelessness, is determined by the percentage of homeless children in a state. Connecticut ranked highest and Kentucky ranked lowest. The second measure, child well-being, is comprised of indicators of food security, health, and education. Utah has the best score with just 5% of children facing food insecurity and 12% with one or more chronic health conditions. Tennessee scores lowest with 7% facing food insecurity and 21% with one or more chronic health conditions.
The next ranking measures the risks for child homelessness, based on indicators such as the child poverty rate, home foreclosures, lack of health insurance, percentage of female-headed households, and percentage of households that spend more than 50% of their income towards rent and utilities. Vermont has the lowest risks for child homelessness, while Arizona has the highest risks.
The last ranking is based on a state’s policy response. The authors focus on the number of housing units available to homeless families within a state, the presence of a state Housing Trust Fund, and the existence of an active state Interagency Council on Homelessness. Iowa has the best score in policy and planning, while Wyoming has the lowest score.
The report cites six major causes of homelessness for children in the U.S.: the nation’s high child poverty rate, lack of affordable housing, lingering effects of the Great Recession, racial disparities, challenges of single parenting, and the ways in which traumatic experiences precede and prolong homelessness. Recommendations for policy strategies on child homelessness include the providing safe affordable housing combined with supportive services, facilitating improvements in education and employment opportunities, and providing parenting supports.
America’s Youngest Outcasts 2013 is at http://new.homelesschildrenamerica.org/mediadocs/280.pdf