America's Youngest Outcasts report finds 527,000 destitute children in California
THE US National Centre on Family Homelessness warned yesterday that the number of homeless children has surged in recent years to an all-time high — one child in 30.
A comprehensive state-by-state report blamed a high poverty rate, the lack of affordable housing and the impact of pervasive domestic violence.
Entitled America’s Youngest Outcasts, the centre’s report calculated that nearly 2.5 million US children were homeless at some point in 2013.
The number is based on the Department of Education’s latest count of 1.3 million homeless children in state schools, supplemented by estimates of homeless pre-school children not counted by the department.
Problems are particularly severe in California, which holds an eighth of the US population, but accounts for more than a fifth of the nation’s homeless children, with a tally of nearly 527,000.
National Centre director and report co-author Carmela DeCandia noted that the federal government had made progress in reducing homelessness among veterans and chronically homeless adults.
But she warned that “the same level of attention and resources has not been targeted to help families and children.
“As a society, we’re going to pay a high price, in human and economic terms.”
Child homelessness increased by 8 per cent across the US from 2012 to 2013, signalling potentially devastating effects on children’s educational, emotional and social development, as well as on their parents’ health, employment prospects and parenting abilities.
The centre’s analysis included a composite index ranking the states on the extent of child homelessness, efforts to combat it and the overall level of child well-being.
States with the best scores were Minnesota, Nebraska and Massachusetts. At the bottom were Alabama, Mississippi and California.
The researchers said that remedies for child homelessness should include an expansion of affordable housing, education and employment opportunities for homeless parents.
It also recommended the provision of specialised services for the many mothers who had been rendered homeless due to domestic violence.