America’s Youngest Homeless Citizens: State of the States

A new report by the National Center on Family Homelessness finds that one in 50 American children experience homelessness. HRC’s Kristen Paquette shares highlights of the report and the Congressional Briefing that took place on March 10, 2009.

Lakisha’s Story

Lakisha is a 23-year old single mother of three young children and an infant. Without other options, they sleep each night on her neighbor’s living room floor. The arrangement is difficult, but Lakisha doesn’t have any other options. Her friend’s family stays up late every night,which means that Lakisha’s children do not get enough sleep. Once everyone goes to bed, Lakisha is not allowed to turn on any lights, even if she needs to use the bathroom or comfort one of her children. One night as she was taking her five year old to the bathroom she tripped and fell, hurting her back. Her daughter began to cry. Lakisha, feeling worried, placed her hand on the child’s mouth so that she didn’t wake the family. It made her feel awful. When she awoke the next morning, Lakisha could barely move. She discovered that her back was badly bruised from her fall during the night. She and her children traveled across town to the community health center to have her back checked. When the nurse asked her what happened, Lakisha was embarrassed. She said she fell down the stairs. The nurse informed her that the only way to feel better was to stay off her feet and rest in bed.

One in 50 American children experiences homelessness, according to a new report by the National Center on Family Homelessness.

On March 10, 2009, Senator Robert P. Casey of Pennsylvania welcomed everyone to the Congressional Briefing in Washington, DC. The briefing marked the release of America’s Youngest Outcasts: State Report Card on Child Homelessness, and Casey’s remarks underscored the urgency of this national crisis.  

Dr. Ellen Bassuk, President of the National Center, shared highlights and proposed policy recommendations from the report. Children who are homeless are hungrier, less healthy, and less likely to be proficient in reading and math, or to finish high school.

Gloria Guard, President of People’s Emergency Center (PEC) in Philadelphia, PA followed with a call to assess and support families’ needs that extend beyond shelter. She emphasized that supportive services are critical ingredients to help parents get back on their feet. As shared in a moving story by Rashida, a consumer of services at the PEC, ongoing outreach, employment and other services helped her to move past a painful history of homelessness. She is now training to become a nurse, living independently, and raising a thriving young daughter.

The top ranked states included Connecticut, New Hampshire and Hawaii. Texas, Georgia and Arkansas fell to the bottom. Overall rankings are based on more than 70 data points, including extent of child homelessness, education, health and mental health, hunger, risk, and the state’s policy and planning responses.

For more information: America's Youngest Outcasts: State Report Card on Child Homelessness

Publication Date: 
Newton Centre, MA, USA