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One in fifty children in the United States is homeless, according to a report by the National Center on Family Homelessness (data for 2005-2006.) These numbers grew as the number of home foreclosures also grew. The study ranked states in four areas: the extent of child homelessness, the risk for it, child well-being and the state's policy and planning efforts. The report also found the following to be true regarding homelessness and children:

The states that fared the poorest were Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, New Mexico and Louisiana.
The states that were best were Connecticut, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Rhode Island and North Dakota.
Homeless children have poor health, emotional problems and low graduation rates.
Forty-two percent of homeless children are younger than six years old.
African-American and Native American children are disproportionately represented.
More than 1 in 7 homeless children have moderate to severe health conditions, such as asthma.
Approximately 1.16 million of homeless children today will not graduate from high school.

The sad truth is that homelessness affects every part of a child’s life - physical, emotional, social, cognitive and behavioral. Children who are born into homelessness are more likely to have low birth weights. Being homeless exposes infants to environmental dangers that can affect their health. Families have little to no access to health care and many infants and toddlers lack essential immunizations. Homeless preschool-age children are more likely to have developmental delays and suffer from emotional problems.

Homelessness and children is a bleak picture, no doubt. But there is hope for the future. With intervention, children can learn to overcome many of the detrimental effects on their homeless experience. Strategies are being set in place to help the homeless, such as supportive housing, parenting support, after school programs, nutritional support such as WIC (Women, Infants and Children, a food supplement program,) and drug and alcohol treatments. There are also emergency services, such as temporary housing and ensuring that prenatal care is available to pregnant women. Some of these are federally funded programs and some are managed by local organizations. If you are homeless and need assistance, start by contacting a local homeless shelter in your area.


 


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