According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) Annual Homeless Assessment Report, 206,286 people in families, including 127,787 children under the age of 18, were homeless on a single night. For some of these families, lack of adequate housing contributed to the decision to open child welfare cases, place the child(ren) in “out of home” care, or delay reunification of children with parents. New analysis of data from HUD’s Family Options Study finds that about 30% of sheltered homeless families reported a separation from at least one family member. Other reports indicate that the rate of homelessness among children with out of home placement ranges from 30% to 49%.
Few events are more traumatic for children than being separated from their parents. Research concludes they are at higher risk for impaired neurodevelopment, psychiatric problems, poverty, future homelessness and criminal justice involvement. Consider:
- One nationwide study of runaway youths indicates more than 30% had been in foster care in the year before they took to the streets.
- Some experts estimate that 40-45 percent of those leaving foster care become homeless within a year.
Several other reputable analyses amplify the long-term consequences of these figures, showing anywhere from 30% to 50% of homeless adults identified themselves as once being in foster care. This means many parents, struggling to find stability in housing for themselves and their children, are likely to have been homeless and in foster care themselves when young. In order to meet the goal of ending family homelessness, we must break this cycle because it perpetuates circumstances greatly contributing to future housing instability and other trauma for these families.