Two and a half million children in America -- one in every 30 -- go to sleep every night without a home of their own each year.
That's according to a new report by The National Center on Family Homelessness titled, America's Youngest Outcasts. Download the full report here.
In California alone, more than 500,000 kids are homeless. In fact, the authors of the report ranked the 50 states according to four domains: the extent of child homelessness, the well-being of the children affected, the risk for family homelessness (poverty and affordable housing issues), and the state's policy response. California ranks 48th (with 50 being the worst).
Here's how "The Golden State" stacks up:
Dr. Carmela DeCandia of The National Center on Family Homelessness joined Take Two to talk about the causes and of child homelessness and some solutions for better protecting Americas youth.
How do you define homelessness for this report?
We define homelessness according to the U.S. Department of Education's definition and their count of homeless children in U.S. schools and use the most recent 2013 census data. So this definitely looks at not just homeless kids in shelters or living unsheltered but they are also living doubled up--this is really where the majority of kids are. They are living with family and friends, sometimes their families split up so they have to go to different places to have a place to stay. So sometimes you see multiple moves and multiple of those kind of doubled up relationships before a family may end up at a shelter, which is often a last resort.
Your study outlines six causes of homelessness. What are those causes?
The nation's high poverty rate and lack of affordable housing across the nation.
Continuing impacts of the great recession, particularly on highly vulnerable groups of families living in poverty, particularly single mothers trying to raise their children and they're below the poverty line.
And we see how traumatic experiences, like domestic violence, can precede and prolong homelessness as well as racial disparity issues.
How does domestic violence make the uncertainty of homelessness even harder for these kids?
We know through research that violence is unfortunately a common denominator among the lives of homeless families. Among homeless mothers, over 90 percent have experienced some sort of lifetime trauma, which most often is an experience of domestic violence. So kids are seeing these experiences and we know from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study that the impact of those experiences on a young child's development can be quite profound and quite long-reaching into their adulthood.
How does California rank?
Overall they rank 48th. It has a high extent of child homelessness in its population. And there are really high risk factors, particularly the disparity between poverty and children living in poverty and the issues regarding affordable housing. California showed 24 percent of children in the state are living in poverty and almost 8 percent of those children don't have health insurance. And then we see the really wide disparity between the state minimum wage of $8 an hour and the income it actually would take for a single mother to afford a two-bedroom apartment, which is over $25 an hour. So that kind of three-fold difference in wage disparity and housing cost really is a high risk factor that leads children and families into homelessness.
Nationally what needs to be done to fight this?
We know what to do, this is a solvable problem. So we need to really act and make a decision to make child homelessness a priority so we can target resources effectively because if we do that then we really can bring down these numbers.