A new report from Homeless Children America finds 2.5 million children experienced homelessness in the United States in 2013, representing one in every 30 children in the country.
The data shows this is a historic high in the number of homeless children in America.
The report, called America’s Youngest Outcasts, based its calculations using the most recent U.S. Department of Education’s count of homeless children in U.S. public schools, which was released in September, and on 2013 U.S. Census data.
From 2012 to 2013, the number of children experiencing homelessness annually in the U.S. increased by 8% nationally. The number of homeless children also increased in 31 states and the District of Columbia and in 13 of those states, it increased by 10% or more.
The report also examined childhood homelessness on a state-by-state level, ranking the states from 1 (best) to 50 (worst). Arkansas was ranked 47th out of 50 on the list based on four factors: extent of child homelessness, risk for family homelessness, child well-being and state policy and planning.
The Arkansas-specific report shows there were 21,704 homeless children during the 2012-2013 school year. That is up by 2,561 from the 2011-2012 school year. The report also deemed state policy and planning in Arkansas inadequate based on factors like the number of housing units for homeless families and state planning efforts.
The report listed six causes of child homelessness country-wide:
- the nation’s high poverty rate
- lack of affordable housing across the nation
- continuing impacts of the Great Recession
- racial disparities
- challenges of single parenting
- the ways traumatic experiences, especially domestic violence, pave the way toward and prolong homelessness
The report also describes the impact homelessness can have on children. Research shows homeless children are hungry and sick more often. Many of them struggle in school– missing days, repeating grades or they drop out entirely. Up to 25% of homeless preschool children have mental health problems, which require clinical evaluation; this increases to 40% in homeless school-age children.
Homelessness, especially in young children, may also lead to changes in the brain, which can interfere with learning, emotional self-regulation, cognitive skills and social relationships.