1 in 50 American children experiences homelessness

NEW YORK–One of every 50 American children experiences homelessness, according to a new report that says most states have inadequate plans to address the worsening and often-overlooked problem.

NEW YORK–One of every 50 American children experiences homelessness, according to a new report that says most states have inadequate plans to address the worsening and often-overlooked problem.

The report being released Tuesday by the National Center on Family Homelessness gives Connecticut the best ranking. Texas is at the bottom.

“These kids are the innocent victims, yet it seems somehow or other they get left out,” said the center’s president, Dr. Ellen Bassuk. “Why are they America’s outcasts?”

The report analyzes data from 2005-2006. It estimates that 1.5 million children experienced homelessness at least once that year and says the problem is surely worse now because of the foreclosures and job losses of the deepening recession.

“If we could freeze-frame it now, it would be bad enough,” said Democratic Sen. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, who wrote a foreward to the report. “By end of this year, it will be that much worse.”

The report’s overall state rankings reflect performance in four areas: child homelessness per capita, child well-being, risk for child homelessness, and state policy and planning.

The top five states were Connecticut, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Rhode Island and North Dakota. At the bottom were Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, New Mexico and Louisiana.

Reflecting the disarray caused by Hurricane Katrina, the report said Louisiana had the most homeless children per capita in 2006, followed by Texas and California.

However, Bassuk – a psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School – said many states fell short in regard to policy and planning. Only six were praised for “extensive” planning to curb child homelessness. Twenty-four states received an “inadequate” grade.

Ken Martin, executive director of the Texas Homeless Network, said the large number of homeless children in Texas was predictable.

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In photo: Linesa Canady, left, wipes her eyes as her daughter, Tyra Haggerty, 11, pauses while talking about life at a family homeless shelter, Friday, March 6, 2009, in Dallas. According to a new report by the National Center on Family Homelessness, Texas is the worst place in the nation for homeless children, and current economic conditions will push even more families with young children out of their homes.

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