Almost 2.5 million U.S. children were reported homeless at some point last year, according to a study released this week. One in every 30 children slept at a homeless shelter, in neighbors' basements, at a camping ground, in cars or worse. The American Institutes for Research's report describes child homelessness in the U.S. as an epidemic, saying the numbers show the problem is worst in Minnesota, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Iowa and New Jersey.
The studies point to the national poverty rate, unemployment, lack of affordable housing, the recession, racial disparities, challenges in single-parenting and domestic abuse among factors contributing to the historically high numbers.
In 2013, the U.S. poverty rate dropped half a point to 14.5 percent. While government programs worked to find homes for U.S. military veterans and the chronically homeless, the report said no special programs or initiatives have taken on the problem of child poverty and homelessness.
Solutions can't just be focused on kids; rather, the answer to the problem is support for the whole family, according to the report. "Effective solutions must combine safe, affordable housing with essential services. Family members should be comprehensively assessed to understand what services they need. Parents may require education, job training, transportation and childcare, and may also need mental health and parenting supports. All services should incorporate a family-oriented, trauma-informed approach."