The Facts


Fig. 1

1 in 30 children in the U. S. are homeless.
Outraged? Surprised?
That is a staggering 2.5 million children. Okay, 2,483,539 to be precise.*

*This is most likely an underestimate since many homeless families do not report themselves as such, and are not as visible due to temporarily staying in cheap motels, with friends and family, etc. (Figures based on the U.S. Department of Education’s count of homeless children in U.S. public schools and on 2013 U.S. Census data.)



Nearly one-quarter of all homeless people were homeless children under the age of 18, and 30 percent of sheltered homeless people were children.

States with the largest numbers of unaccompanied homeless children and youth under 18 are: California (2,144),
Florida (1,542),
and Texas (718).

Together, California, Florida, and Texas had 58 percent of all unaccompanied children and youth under 18 in the country.


1.6M – 2.8M youth runaway and are homeless every year.


– 5,000 unaccompanied youth die each year as a result of assault, illness, or suicide. 


– There are only 4,117 beds available for nationwide for children.

(, )

– 1 out 3 teens on the streets will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.






The risk of homelessness is highest among families with children under the age of 6.

Impact of child homelessness:

From Compass SF:

What are the  effects of homelessness on children?

  • More than half of children from homeless families have never lived in a permanent home, and most experience multiple upheavals each year.  (Bay Area Foundation Advisory Group to End Homelessness)

  • Homeless children are sick and hungry twice as often as non-homeless children.  (Bay Area Foundation Advisory Group to End Homelessness)

  • Nearly 70% of homeless children suffer from chronic illness.  Almost 50% have emotional problems such as anxiety and depression.  (Better Homes Fund – W.K. Kellogg Foundation)

  • Homeless children experience developmental delays at four times the rate of other children.  (Bay Area Foundation Advisory Group to End Homelessness)

  • Homeless children are twice as likely to repeat a grade in school, and are significantly more likely not to finish high school. (Institute for Children and Poverty)

Children in families experiencing homelessness have increased incidence of illness and are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems than  children with consistent living accommodations.    

The impact of homelessness on the children, especially young children, is devastating and may lead to changes in brain architecture that can interfere with learning, emotional self regulation, cognitive skills, and social relationships. The unrelenting stress experienced by the parents, most of whom are women parenting alone, may contribute to residential instability, unemployment, ineffective parenting, and poor health.

Most children living in shelter or other transitional environments have a history of exposure to trauma and many have experienced other family disruptions. In addition, almost half of all children who are homeless are below the age of six years—a period marked by significant brain development. Given recent findings about the effects of “toxic stress” on brain architecture in children, it is imperative that these children’s needs are identified and addressed.





Major causes of homelessness for children in the U.S. include: (1) the nation’s high poverty rate; (2) lack of affordable housing across the nation; (3) continuing impacts of the Great Recession; (4) racial disparities; (5) the challenges of single parenting; and (6) the ways in which traumatic experiences, especially domestic violence, precede and prolong homelessness for families.


While many homeless subpopulations have decreased in recent years, the number of persons in families experiencing homelessness has increased. The federal government has made concerted efforts to reduce homelessness among chronically homeless individuals and veterans, and these efforts have shown significant progress. Children and families have not received the same attention—and their numbers are growing. (From 2012 to 2013, the number of children experiencing homelessness annually in the U.S.: • Increased by 8% nationally. • Increased in 31 states and the District of Columbia. • Increased by 10% or more in 13 states and the District of Columbia.) Without decisive action and the allocation of sufficient resources, the nation will fail to reach the stated federal goal of ending family homelessness by 2020, and child homelessness may result in a permanent Third World in America.


State Composite Score Each state is assigned a rank of 1 (best) to 50 (worst) based on a state composite score that reflects each state’s overall performance across four domains: 1) Extent of Child Homelessness (adjusted for state population) 2) Child Well-Being 3) Risk for Child Homelessness 4) State Policy and Planning Efforts Each state received a score for each of the four domains. These are summed to compute the state’s composite score to produce the overall state rank of 1 to 50.3  

CALIFORNIA, ONE OF THE “WEALTHIEST” STATES RANKS 48/50. (Mississippi = 49 and Alabama = 50)

2013 State Policy and Planning - ca = 49

CA - 526,708 kids homeless

From wikipedia:

States ranked by median household income = CA = 3rd highest = $67,458

According to Metraux and Culhane (1999), Black children under five years of age were 29 times more likely than White children to be in emergency shelter.


It is unacceptable that 2.5 million children—one out of every 30 children—experience homelessness in the United States annually. The number has increased steadily over the last few decades and will not lessen until our nation pays attention to this issue, and makes it an immediate priority. We have reduced homelessness among chronically homeless individuals and veterans by targeting additional resources in the form of housing and critical supports. It is now time to include children and families in this effort. The solution to child homelessness starts with agreeing as a nation that children living doubled-up in basements and attics with relatives and friends are homeless and need our help. The next step is to ensure an adequate supply of safe, affordable housing combined with essential services. To remain housed, mothers need employment opportunities that provide adequate income; this necessitates education, job training, transportation, and childcare. Universal screening of all homeless family members is critical to understand a family’s needs beyond housing, and to set realistic goals. When the proper mix of supports and services for each family is determined, services must incorporate a family-oriented, trauma-informed approach.  If we continue to look away, this problem will grow worse, and the long-term costs to our society will dwarf the costs of making this issue a priority now. We must mobilize a comprehensive response and pay attention to the millions of children in this country who have no home to call their own—or another generation of children will be permanently marginalized and lost.



From Compass SF:

The most visible segment is the “chronically” homeless – or individuals who live on the streets for long periods of time and usually have addiction or mental health problems.  So it surprises many people to learn that up to 25% of San Francisco’s homeless population consists of families with children.  Sadly, this is a national trend: while the overall number of homeless people in the United States is on the decline, children and families make up the fastest growing segment of our country’s homeless population.  Right now there are more homeless children in the United States than at any other time since the Great Depression.


Why isn’t family homelessness a more visible problem?


Most of San Francisco’s homeless families do not live on the street, and if they do, their children may be removed from their custody by Child Protective Services.  Rather, most homeless families are transient, living in shelters, cars, in cheap by-the-night hotels in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, or staying temporarily with friends or family members.  Many would not be recognizable as “homeless” to a casual passer-by. :

Poor San Franciscans face unimaginable hardships today: the severity of the housing crisis and the city’s combining skyrocketing rents; an 170% increase in Ellis Act Evictions; an almost 40% hike in all evictions; the almost complete cessation of new affordable housing opportunities.




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Rise In Number Of Homeless Children

Statistics from The National Center On Family Homelessness At The American Institutes For Research



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