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New Housing Data Misses the Mark on Family Homelessness

For Immediate Release:

October 26, 2016

Contact:

Meg Biallas, First Focus

Barbara Duffield, National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth

Ruth White, National Center for Housing and Child Welfare

Washington – Advocates for homeless children and youth say the annual estimate of homelessness in the United States released yesterday by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is misleading and underestimates family and youth homelessness.

HUD’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report Part II, an estimate and description of homeless Americans presented each year to Congress, reported 502,521 sheltered families with children in 2015, a 6.1 percent increase since 2007.

In contrast, public schools, as reported by the Department of Education identified 1,301,239 homeless children and youth in the 2013-2014 school year, a 100 percent increase from the 2006-2007 school year. Head Start programs also reported a significant increase in the numbers of homeless children identified by Head Start programs, from 26,200 homeless children in 2007-2008, to 50,219 in 2014-2015, and increasing by 3% between 2013-2014 and 2015-2016.

HUD’s estimates focus on shelter occupancy, which is inappropriate for families and youth because:

  • HUD measures capacity, not need: Shelters are often full, and many communities do not have shelters, or have shelters that are inappropriate for the needs families or youth. Unaccompanied youth may avoid adult shelters because of safety concerns.
  • HUD does not look in the places most homeless families and youth can be found: Homeless families and youth are less likely than single adults to stay on the streets and other outdoor locations. They are less likely to sleep in bus stations, parks, etc. because they fear referrals to child protective services. Unaccompanied youth can face victimization on the streets. Families and youth are much more likely to stay temporarily with other people, or in motels. But HUD does not consider these homeless children and youth to be homeless, and makes no effort to count them.

 

Department of Education data includes children and youth in these hidden locations, which are unstable and very often unsafe. HUD excludes these children and youth in its estimates and fails to prioritize their needs. As Congress considers policies to address family homelessness in the 115th session, it should require HUD to adopt a more accurate definition of homelessness for children and youth, and honor local communities’ local assessments of their needs.

The First Focus Campaign for Children, the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, and the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare released the following statements in response to HUD’s release:

“Homeless children and youth find themselves in many situations, and all have experienced trauma,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children. “The report is a missed opportunity to identify all homeless children and youth in the U.S. so we can realize the true need.  Homeless children and youth can’t wait any longer to receive the support they deserve.”

“The nation’s public schools, including early childhood education programs such as Head Start, have witnessed a persistent increase in the numbers of homeless children and youth over the past decade,” said Barbara Duffield, Director of Policy and Programs for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. “To categorize these children and youth as merely ‘housing unstable,’ as does today’s report, both mischaracterizes their living situations and implies that they are less vulnerable than other homeless children and youth. Nothing could be further from the truth. The urgency of child and youth homelessness requires that HUD Homeless Assistance be redesigned to meet the unique developmental needs of children and youth.”

“The AHAR is simply a report of how many homeless people are contacted through an impressive, elaborate street outreach effort conducted once a year through the Point in Time events nationwide,” said Ruth White, executive director of National Center for Housing and Child Welfare. “The obvious discrepancy between the AHAR numbers and what any provider, public school employee, or American who regularly walks down a city street can see with their own eyes, calls into question the need for the AHAR and indeed, the purpose of the PIT counts.”

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The First Focus Campaign for Children is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization affiliated with First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization. The Campaign for Children advocates directly for legislative change in Congress to ensure children and families are a priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit www.campaignforchildren.org .

NAEHCY is a national grassroots membership association dedicated to ensuring the school enrollment, attendance, and overall success for children and youth whose lives have been disrupted by the lack of safe, permanent and adequate housing. For more information, see www.naehcy.org.

The National Center for Housing and Child Welfare (NCHCW) links housing resources and knowledge to child welfare agencies in order to improve family functioning, prevent family homelessness, and reduce the need for out-of-home placement. NCHCW also brings housing resources to child welfare agencies in order to ensure that older youth in foster care have a connection to permanent family as well as a solid plan for stable housing and services to help them be successful as adults.

A World Without Homeless Children: A Young Activist Investigates

A world without homeless children – that’s the kind of world Kelly wants to live in.

The second grader from New York shared facts about homeless youth and interviews formerly homeless moms in a recent YouTube video. It’s part of her entry for the White House Film Festival, according to her Indiegogo page.

“[The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] does not consider doubled-up children to be homeless – which underestimates the total population,” says Kelly. In fact, HUD only factors in about five percent of the total youth homeless population.

At the video’s conclusion, the young activist offers ideas on how to ask elected officials to pass the Homeless Children and Youth Act. Tweet the video to raise awareness of youth homeless, and learn more about the issue from HelpHomelessKidsNow.org and First Focus.

 


twitter-action-badgeTweet: Second grader from New York investigates youth homelessness: http://ctt.ec/2r6GS+ #HCYA


Housing Department’s Homeless Family Data Misleading, Advocates Say

For Immediate Release: November 5, 2015

Contacts:        
Madeline Daniels, First Focus Campaign for Children, 202-657-0664
Barbara Duffield, National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, 202-549-7668
Ruth White, National Center for Housing & Child Welfare, 301-699-0151

Washington – Advocates for homeless children and youth say the annual estimate of homelessness in the United States released today by the Department of Housing and Urban Development is misleading and underestimates family and youth homelessness.

HUD’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report Part II, an estimate and description of homeless Americans presented each year to Congress, reported 517,416 sheltered families with children (including both children and adults) in 2014, a 9.3 percent increase from 2007.

In contrast, the Department of Education identified 1,360,747 homeless children and youth in the 2013-2014 school year, a 100.2 percent increase from the 2006-2007 school year.

HUD’s estimates focus on shelter occupancy, which is inappropriate for families and youth because:

HUD measures capacity, not need: Shelters are often full, and many communities do not have shelters, or have shelters that are appropriate for the needs families or youth. Unaccompanied youth may avoid adult shelters because of safety concerns.
HUD does not look in the places most homeless families and youth can be found: Homeless families and youth are less likely than single adults to stay on the streets and other outdoor locations. They are less likely to sleep in bus stations, parks, etc. because they fear referrals to child protective services. Unaccompanied youth can face victimization on the streets. Families and youth are much more likely to stay temporarily with other people, or in motels. But HUD does not consider these homeless children and youth to be homeless, and makes no effort to count them.
Department of Education data includes children and youth in these hidden locations, which are unstable and very often unsafe. HUD excludes these children and youth in its estimates and fails to prioritize their needs. But Congress is considering a bipartisan bill, the Homeless Children and Youth Act (S. 256, H.R. 576), requiring HUD to adopt a more accurate definition of homelessness and make homeless children and youth eligible for the same assistance available to homeless adults.

The First Focus Campaign for Children, the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, and the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare released the following statements in response to HUD’s release:

“Homeless children count, but the housing department does not count all homeless children in its annual estimates, “said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children. The report is a missed opportunity to identify and prioritize our homeless children. Americans deserve better, especially when it comes to fighting family homelessness. This is a desperate situation, and the first step we must take is to pass the Homeless Children and Youth Act.”

“The nation’s public schools have witnessed a persistent increase in the numbers of homeless children and youth over the past decade,” said Barbara Duffield, Director of Policy and Programs for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. “To categorize these children and youth as merely ‘housing insecure,’ as does today’s report, both mischaracterizes their living situations and implies that they are less vulnerable than other homeless children and youth. Nothing could be further from the truth. The urgency of child and youth homelessness requires an alignment of federal definitions of homelessness.”

“The AHAR is simply a report of how many homeless people are contacted through an impressive, elaborate street outreach effort conducted once a year through the Point in Time events nationwide,” said Ruth White, executive director of National Center for Housing and Child Welfare. “The obvious discrepancy between the AHAR numbers and what any provider, public school employee, or American who regularly walks down a city street can see with their own eyes, calls into question the need for the AHAR and indeed, the purpose of the PIT counts.”

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The First Focus Campaign for Children is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization affiliated with First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization. The Campaign for Children advocates directly for legislative change in Congress to ensure children and families are the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit www.campaignforchildren.org.

NAEHCY is a national grassroots membership association dedicated to ensuring the school enrollment, attendance, and overall success for children and youth whose lives have been disrupted by the lack of safe, permanent and adequate housing. For more information, see www.naehcy.org.

The National Center for Housing and Child Welfare (NCHCW) links housing resources and knowledge to child welfare agencies in order to improve family functioning, prevent family homelessness, and reduce the need for out-of-home placement. NCHCW also brings housing resources to child welfare agencies in order to ensure that older youth in foster care have a connection to permanent family as well as a solid plan for stable housing and services to help them be successful as adults.

Record Number of Homeless Students in U.S. Schools; Leading Homeless Children’s Advocates Comment

For Immediate Release: September 22, 2014

Washington – Public schools in the United States enroll a record number of homeless children and youth, according to U.S. Department of Education (ED) data released today.

The 1,258,182 homeless students enrolled by U.S. preschools and K-12 schools in the 2012-2013 school year is an increase of 8 percent from the previous school year. 34 states and the District of Columbia reported year-to-year increases in the number of homeless students. The number of homeless children in public schools has increased 85 percent since the beginning of the recession.

81 percent of the children included in the ED data are not recognized as homeless by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which prioritizes homeless single adults, because they are living temporarily in motels or doubled-up housing. As a result, 1,006,899 homeless children are eligible for educational assistance through local schools, but not HUD services including shelter, short-term housing, and assistance with obtaining permanent housing. The bipartisanHomeless Children and Youth Act introduced in both chambers of Congress would amend the HUD definition of homelessness to include the homeless children identified in ED’s report.

Homeless children face education, health, and safety consequences from their lack of permanent housing:

This year, for the first time, ED required all school districts to report whether homeless students were living with their parents, or on their own (unaccompanied homeless youth). School districts reported enrolling 75,940 unaccompanied homeless youth. Studies have found that:

  • 40-60 percent of unaccompanied homeless youth were abused physically in their homes, 20-40 percent were abused sexually.
  • Over two-thirds of unaccompanied homeless youth report that at least one of their parents abuses drugs or alcohol.
  • Unaccompanied homeless youth are more likely to fall victim to sexual exploitation, including trafficking.

The ED data underestimate the number of homeless children in the United States. The data do not include homeless infants and toddlers, young children who are not enrolled in public preschool programs, and homeless children and youth who were not identified by school officials.

In response to the ED data, leading advocates for homeless children released the following statements:

“A record number of homeless students means a record number of our children being exposed to sexual trafficking, abuse, hunger, and denial of their basic needs,” said Bruce Lesley, President of the First Focus Campaign for Children. “The new data means that a record number of kids in our schools and communities are spending restless nights in bed-bug infested motels and falling more behind in school by the day because they’re too tired and hungry to concentrate. This is a desperate situation, and the first step we must take is to get homeless students the housing assistance they need today by passing the Homeless Children and Youth Act.”

“The data released today confirm what our members see every day – increasing numbers of children and youth struggling to survive without a home,” said Barbara Duffield, Director of Policy and Programs for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. “Public schools are the only universal safety net for these children and youth — a place where they can obtain basic services and the education that is necessary to escape poverty as adults. Yet without access to HUD homeless assistance, schools struggle to stabilize the education and the lives of homeless children and youth. The Homeless Children and Youth Act would eliminate the red tape that prevents local agencies from collaborating to create better futures for these vulnerable students.”

“It is shocking and sobering that in a country this wealthy we have so many students who lack a place to live,” said Jeremy Rosen, Director of Advocacy at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. “Unfortunately, current federal homelessness policy makes it harder for children, youth, and families to leave homelessness. Congress should pass the Homeless Children and Youth Act so that we can see these numbers begin to decline.”

“Clearly, the federal government has abandoned its commitment to fill yawning gaps in affordable housing options for low income families – and left America’s public schools to deal with the consequences,” said Ruth White,  Executive Director, National Center for Housing and Child Welfare. “These alarming trends could be easily reversed by prudent investments in federal housing programs that help these struggling families make ends meet.”

“With 75,940 unaccompanied homeless youth counted in public schools  and less than 7,000 beds for this population, it is clear that we have a long way to go to providing this very vulnerable homeless youth population with the care and resources they need,” said Darla Bardine, Executive Director, National Network for Youth.

The data released by the U.S. Department of Education are available on the website of the National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE). NCHE is the U.S. Department of Education’s technical assistance and information provider in the area of homeless education.

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The First Focus Campaign for Children is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization affiliated with First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization. The Campaign for Children advocates directly for legislative change in Congress to ensure children and families are the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit www.campaignforchildren.org.

NAEHCY is a national grassroots membership association dedicated to ensuring the school enrollment, attendance, and overall success for children and youth whose lives have been disrupted by the lack of safe, permanent and adequate housing. For more information, see www.naehcy.org.

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) is a 501(c) 3 organization based in Washington, D.C. and founded in 1989 as the legal arm of the national movement to end and prevent homelessness. Through policy advocacy, public education, and impact litigation, NLCHP addresses the root causes of homelessness and seeks to meet both the immediate and long-term needs of homeless and poor people. Through training and support, NLCHP also enhances the capacity of local groups.

The National Center for Housing and Child Welfare (NCHCW) links housing resources and knowledge to child welfare agencies in order to improve family functioning, prevent family homelessness, and reduce the need for out-of-home placement. NCHCW also brings housing resources to child welfare agencies in order to ensure that older youth in foster care have a connection to permanent family as well as a solid plan for stable housing and services to help them be successful as adults.

The National Network for Youth (NN4Y), founded in 1974, is the nation’s leading network of homeless and runaway youth programs. The Network champions the needs of runaway, homeless, and other disconnected youth through strengthening the capacity of community-based services, facilitating resource sharing, and educating the public and policy makers. NN4Y members work collaboratively to prevent youth homelessness and the inherent risks of living on the streets, including exploitation, human trafficking, criminal justice involvement, or getting killed on the streets. For more information, visit www.nn44youth.org.

Agency’s Homelessness Data Misleading, Advocates Say

For Immediate Release: October 30, 2014

Contacts: Ed Walz, First Focus Campaign for Children, 202-657-0685
Barbara Duffield, National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, 202-549-7668
Sarah Knutsen, National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, 202-638-2535
Darla Bardine, National Network For Youth, 202-783-7949
Ruth White, National Center for Housing & Child Welfare, 301-699-0151

Washington – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today released its Annual Homeless Assessment Report, a count and description of homeless Americans presented each year to Congress. The report is based on counts taken at homeless shelters, as well as counts taken by volunteers who survey streets, parks, light rail stations and tunnels, all-night businesses, and other places frequented by homeless people. HUD reports a 15 percent drop in homelessness among families with children from 2010-2014, directly contradicting U.S. Department of Education data released in September, showing an increase in homeless K-12 students of 18 percent from school years 2010-2011 to 2012-2013. Advocates for families and youth reacted today by challenging HUD to correct three serious deficiencies that call into question the report’s value

1. HUD doesn’t look in the places homeless families and youth can be found – Homeless families and youth are less likely to go to shelters – partly because shelter policies often exclude two-parent families and families with adolescent boys, so going to a shelter means separating the family. Youth who are homeless on their own avoid adult shelters because of safety concerns. And families are less likely to go to the other places (bus stations, parks, etc.) where HUD counts because they are afraid of having their children removed from their custody. But HUD makes no effort to count homeless families and youth who are staying for the night in a motel that they pay for, staying with others because they have nowhere to go, or otherwise out-of-sight.

2. HUD wouldn’t count homeless youth and families if they found them – HUD doesn’t consider most homeless children and youth homeless. HUD’s narrow homelessness definition excludes most kids who are not in shelters or on the streets. But with the U.S. Department of Education reporting nearly 1.3 million homeless children in K-12 schools, that narrow definition makes HUD’s data wildly inaccurate.

3. HUD’s shelter count measures capacity, not need – HUD’s primary count focuses on shelter occupancy and the number and availability of volunteers to count people who are visibly homeless on the streets and other outdoor locations. But shelters are often full, and many communities do not have shelters for families or youth. The number of volunteers and the quality of their efforts are not uniform. So HUD’s count is actually more a measure of shelter and volunteer capacity than actual need. This primary count excludes youth and families whose needs go unmet.

Congress is considering bipartisan legislation requiring HUD to adopt a more accurate definition of “homeless” and make homeless children and youth eligible for the same HUD assistance available to homeless adults. The Homeless Children and Youth Act is sponsored in the Senate by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and in the House of Representatives by Congressman Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) and Congressman George Miller (D-Calif.). The bill has been referred to the congressional committees with jurisdiction – the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee.

A working group including the First Focus Campaign for Children the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, the National Network For Youth, and the National Center for Housing & Child Welfare reacted to the HUD report’s release with a statement by First Focus Campaign for Children president Bruce Lesley:

“HUD’s defining homelessness in a way that excludes millions of people, including as many as a million children. And in the process, they’ve delivered Congress a report that’s practically useless. But especially on a problem as serious as child, youth, and family homelessness, Congress and the people who elected them deserve real answers. Fixing the problem starts with adopting an honest definition that reflects the reality of today’s homelessness.”

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The First Focus Campaign for Children is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization affiliated with First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization. The Campaign for Children advocates directly for legislative change in Congress to ensure children and families are the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visitwww.campaignforchildren.org.

NAEHCY is a national grassroots membership association dedicated to ensuring the school enrollment, attendance, and overall success for children and youth whose lives have been disrupted by the lack of safe, permanent and adequate housing. For more information, see www.naehcy.org.

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) is a 501(c) 3 organization based in Washington, D.C. and founded in 1989 as the legal arm of the national movement to end and prevent homelessness. Through policy advocacy, public education, and impact litigation, NLCHP addresses the root causes of homelessness and seeks to meet both the immediate and long-term needs of homeless and poor people. Through training and support, NLCHP also enhances the capacity of local groups.

The National Network for Youth (NN4Y) is the nation’s leading network of runaway and homeless youth programs. The Network champions the needs of runaway, homeless, and other disconnected youth through strengthening the capacity of community-based services by facilitating resource sharing and educating the public and policy makers. NN4Y members work collaboratively to prevent youth homelessness and the inherent risks of living on the streets which includes victimization, exploitation, human trafficking, criminal justice involvement, lifetime homelessness or death. For more information, visit www.nn4youth.org.


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About the photos: Photos of children and youth experiencing homelessness provided by Diane Nilan, HEAR US Inc., used with permission. (c) 2012, Diane Nilan, HEAR US Inc.