During his State of the Union address last week, the President told a misleading story about the economy steadily chipping away at poverty across the country. Around the same time, his administration quietly released this bit of damning truth: Over the past three years the number of children experiencing homelessness at some point during the school year has risen by 200,000.
The new data, collected by the Department of Education show that 1,508,265 students enrolled in public schools experienced homelessness at some point during the 2017-18 school year, up 15 percent over the 1,307,656 who experienced homelessness during the 2015-16 school year.
Homelessness here is defined as lacking a fixed, regular, adequate place to sleep at night. Children living in shared housing due to eviction or economic hardship, in hotels, motels, shelters or on the street fit this definition; the majority of homeless children are living “doubled up” in shared housing, which is often cramped and dangerous. The number of “unsheltered” children rose by 137 percent in three years.
Homelessness has devastating effects on children’s ability to perform in school, the new data show. Only 28.7 percent of homeless children receive proficient scores in reading and language arts and rates are even lower on math (23.7 percent) and science (25.6 percent) tests. Poor children, who are already at a severe disadvantage in school, score about 10 percentage points better, on average, in every subject.
The new data confirm the findings of our recently-released State of America’s Children 2020: year after year more children are facing inadequate, unaffordable housing or homelessness, primarily as a result of inadequately funded federal programs and unmet demand for affordable housing. Only 1 in 4 families who are eligible for federal housing assistance actually receive it.
To learn more about how the Administration has failed to provide adequate housing to our nation’s children, visit the Housing and Homelessness chapter of State of America’s Children 2020.