Experts estimate more than 1 million school-age kids are homeless in America.
Many homeless kids go without services.
Funds from the national health crisis are drying up.
Advocates are calling on lawmakers to address the problem.
(NewsReady.com) – Millions of Americans lost their jobs during the national health crisis. Many of those losses were just temporary, but some persisted. To help families get through the painful times, Congress passed a massive financial aid package.
More than three years later, those funds are drying up, and experts believe the lack of funds could be contributing to a child homelessness crisis.
According to the Department of Education, public schools have enrolled more than 1 million school-age kids every year since the 2011–2012 school year. In 2008, there were approximately 680,000 homeless students, but that has gone up 90% to more than 1.1 million. During the health crisis, the number appeared to drop from 1.4 million, but experts say the number was misleading because many kids weren’t in classrooms and therefore weren’t surveyed.
Schoolhouse Connection Executive Director Barbara Duffield told UPI that the response system to the homeless problem “is very much in crisis mode and not focused on prevention.” She said that things are much worse in 2023, explaining that in the past, if they found out a family was living in their car, they’d immediately “drop everything” to respond, but this year, she said advocates think “it’s like it’s good that they have a place to go.”
Duffield said homelessness disrupts every part of a child’s existence. She said those kids tell advocates that “school is the most stable place in their” lives. It’s also one of the places “where they can have an identity that’s not just being homeless.”
Advocates Plead With Lawmakers
In March 2020, then-President Donald Trump signed a relief package into law, including $4 billion in assistance for homeless Americans. The money was distributed to people in danger of losing their homes as well as those who were already living on the streets. The administration also enacted a moratorium on evictions that President Joe Biden extended when he took office. That moratorium ended in August 2021.
Over the last three years, lawmakers have approved more funding to combat the homeless crisis but that funding will expire in September 2024. Advocates are asking lawmakers to increase funding for housing in order to address the issue.
Barbara DiPietro, the National Health Care for the Homeless Council’s senior director of policy, said the health crisis proved what the government was capable of doing during an emergency. However, now they are “back to where we were before,” and she feels like it’s worse because there was “some measure of compassion for people at the very beginning” of the pandemic.
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