The number of homeless children in the US has surged in recent years to an all-time high, amounting to one child out of every 30, according to a comprehensive state-by-state report.
The report, issued on Monday by the National Center on Family Homelessness [NCFH], says that nearly 2.5 million American children were homeless at some point in 2013.
The rights organisation blames the country’s high poverty rate, the lack of affordable housing and the impacts of pervasive domestic violence for the rise in displaced youth.
The report’s figures are based on the US Department of Education’s latest count of 1.3 million homeless children in public schools, supplemented by estimates of homeless pre-school children not counted by the department.
As a society, we're going to pay a high price, in human and economic terms.
The problem is particularly severe in the state of California, which has one-eighth of the country’s total population but accounts for more than one-fifth of the homeless children with a tally of nearly 527,000.
But Carmela Decandia, director of the NCFH and co-author of the report, noted that the federal government has made progress in reducing homelessness among veterans and chronically homeless adults.
“The same level of attention and resources has not been targeted to help families and children,” she said. “As a society, we’re going to pay a high price, in human and economic terms.”
Child homelessness increased by eight percent nationally from 2012 to 2013, according to the report, which warned of potentially devastating effects on children’s educational, emotional and social development, as well as on their parents’ health, employment prospects and parenting abilities.
The report 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 new report by the National Center on Family Homelessness, a part of the private, nonprofit American Institutes for Research, says remedies for child homelessness should include an expansion of affordable housing, education and employment opportunities for homeless parents, and specialised services for the many mothers rendered homeless due to domestic violence.