When best isn’t good enough to end child homelessness


Nearly 1 million more children are homeless in our country than in 2010, according to a new report called “America’s Youngest Outcasts,” by the American Institutes for Research and The National Center on Family Homelessness. One in 30 children in the nation is experiencing homelessness. The report is based on recently released 2012-2013 data.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that by one measurement, Minnesota ranks first (as in best) using a composite score that includes state policies, the portion of homeless children, risk factors for homelessness related to benefits and housing costs, and child well-being factors such as food security and health.

In this case, best isn’t good enough; 23,608 children were homeless in Minnesota while 14 percent of the state’s children live in poverty. Not surprisingly, children experiencing homelessness also have had trouble keeping up in school due to anxiety about where they will sleep, whether they will have enough food, and family tensions related to homelessness and poverty.

“Emergency housing alone will not solve the crisis of record homelessness among children in U.S. schools,” emphasizes Education Week. “Rather, cross-sector efforts that address underlying causes of homelessness—such as mental illness and inadequate childcare—will be needed to change trend lines in a sustainable way.”

In other words, while emergency shelter such as Families Moving Forward supports families during the crisis of homelessness, a long-term solution is needed that includes safe, affordable housing and support for parents struggling with barriers to stability such as lack of education and employment opportunities, and lack of access to high-quality, affordable child care.

This disturbing rise in the ranks of homeless children in one of the wealthiest nations in the world underscores the importance of our work as the Beacon collaborative – ending homelessness through housing, shelter and advocacy for ongoing public policies and funding to support those experiencing homelessness.