More American children than ever before are now homeless, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Center on Family Homelessness. One out of every 45 kids in the U.S. is sleeping on the streets, or lives in a shelter, motel, or home where struggling families are doubled up. That's 1.6 million kids in all. What does this say about the effects of the Great Recession? Here, four key takeaways from this "bleak" report:
1. The recession has hit harder than Hurricane Katrina
This crisis is worse than the "historic spike in homelessness" the nation experienced after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2006, says Andrew Mach in The Christian Science Monitor. In 2010, 60,000 more kids were on the streets than in the aftermath of those devastating storms. "These homeless children have gradually become a prominent part of a third world that is emerging in our own backyards," says Ellen Bassuk, president of the National Center on Family Homelessness.
2. And this time, the crisis is "man-made"
The number of children with no permanent roof over their heads has jumped by 33 percent since 2007, when 1.2 million Americans under age 18 were homeless. "This is an absurdly high number," Bassuk tells Daily Markets. And these are the effects of "a man-made disaster caused by the economic recession.... We are seeing extreme budget cuts, foreclosures, and a lack of affordable housing."
3. Some regions have it worse than others
The problem is most pressing in Southern states such as Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas where poverty rates are unusually high. "People had savings or unemployment and that's run out," Shelly Jordan, a case manager for the homeless in Hattiesburg, Miss., tells USA Today. The number of homeless families is also up in states that have been hammered with foreclosures, including Arizona, California, and Nevada. Kids fared best in Vermont, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Maine.
4. The youngest children suffer the most
Homeless kids are often "very traumatized," facing hunger, poor health, and lower educational achievement. Roughly a quarter of these kids bounce through three or more schools in a year. And it's often the youngest who suffer the most. The majority of the nation's homeless children are under age 7.