With all the hoopla over the recent report of the staggering increase of homeless children and youth, I’m taking it a step further. I want people to wrap their mind around the fact that over 3 million kiddos in our country have nowhere to go, so I got a custom license plate holder that says it.
The National Center on Family Homelessness just released their jaw-dropping America’s Youngest Outcasts: A Report on Family Homelessness.
Take that one word at a time.
What? This country discards children? They must deserve it, you might be thinking.
Uh, no. They’re kids. They deserve at least a basic place to live, and the other essentials, not to be discarded like trash in the gutter. They’re kids, mostly with a parent or 2, who fit the definition of homelessness that makes sense to any person who uses their cognitive capacity.
It boils down to: They’ve lost housing due to hardship, and they have nowhere to go.
Hardship in these hard times is not hard to imagine, except if you’re our U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the beleaguered, mostly-dysfunctional housing provider for those opposite the 1%. HUD can't seem to count high enough to document homeless kids.
How many kids you ask?
Well, NCFH estimates at least 2.5 million kids have fallen into the abyss of homelessness this year. I take issue with that number—too low.
What are the causes?
From their report:
Major causes of homelessness for children in the U.S. include: (1) the nation’s high poverty rate; (2) lack of affordable housing across the nation; (3) continuing impacts of the Great Recession; (4) racial disparities; (5) the challenges of single parenting; and (6) the ways in which traumatic experiences, especially domestic violence, precede and prolong homelessness for families.
None of that should come as a surprise for any thinking person.
What’s the big deal?
Well, this number has increased dramatically over the past 30 years, but HUD didn't get the memo. They have a convoluted definition of homelessness that excludes millions of kids, with families and without, who have lost housing due to hardship and have nowhere to go.
The government miscounts lots of things, why is this different?
These are kids, damn it! We should at least be able to draw the line on our nasty attitude towards our neighbor when it comes to kids. Babies. Toddlers. Younger kids. Teens. Young adults. And being homeless as kids makes it more likely they’ll be homeless as adults. We shouldn’t be “growing” homelessness.
So, what’s the deal with the numbers?
The U.S. Department of Education, with a more realistic definition of homelessness, has a fairly solid census of homeless students, although everyone familiar with the homeless student count agrees that it’s probably way low. For the 2012-13 school year, the most recent data available, they reported 1,258,152 students identified as homeless. That number has increased an astounding 75% since the recession began.
The Outcasts report points out that HUD ignores 75% of homeless children, particularly those doubled up with others due to having nowhere to go. My organization, HEAR US Inc., recently produced a documentary on doubled up, Worn Out Welcome Mat, to give doubled up families and youth a chance to describe the hardships involved in bouncing place to place when you’ve got nowhere to live.
OK, OK, so we’ve got a bunch of homeless kids with nowhere to go. Now what?
A few things can be done, even if you’re lacking money to donate. For the sake of space in this post, I’ll refer you to my recent blog that lists some options.
Can I get one of those license plates?
I'd love for them to be attached to thousands of vehicles all across the U.S. Email me and I'll let you know how to get them.
And I double-dog-dare someone to dispute the 3 mil.