The numbers vary from state to state but the crisis is the same: more children experience homelessness now than in previous years. Minnesota saw a nine percent increase in homeless children with their parents between 2009 and 2012, when the most recent Wilder Research survey was conducted.
And that is just the number who were counted – says author Ralph da Costa Nunez, president of the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness. (When it comes to homeless students should the sky be the limit?, Huffington Post, Sept. 30, 2014). He says 75 percent are doubled in with family or friends, “always worrying about the day they will have over-stayed their welcome.” Others, of course, are in shelters, motels – or, where? We don’t know.
At Beacon we receive numerous emails and calls each week from parents looking for shelter for their family, or from stafff at a church, a local business or another nonprofit organization seeking resources for a friend, a neighbor, a client experiencing homelessness now.
Da Costa Nunez says children who experience homelessness are more likely to miss school, fare worse in the classroom (they may not be sleeping or eating well), and more likely to repeat a year of school than children who have not experienced homelessness.
Shelter such as Families Moving Forward is so important – families need safe space and support now. Shelter meets real immediate needs, keeps children safe, warm, fed.
Sometimes asking for help is the strongest thing to do — but to many parents it feels weak. Parents want to be able to provide for their own children. They want to live in a neighborhood, send the kids to play in a back yard, call them in for dinner at their own kitchen table.
Stable housing a family can afford, and which offers safety, a sense of community and belonging, is so badly needed in Minnesota as in other states. We recently learned that the Saint Paul Public Housing Authority is actually extending housing vouchers for 120 days becasue there is such a lack of affordable housing – the vacancy rate is just one percent. The demand is high and the supply is low. Economics even an English major like me can understand.
Stay tuned for important Beacon news on this topic.