The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
A recent comprehensive state-by-state report sponsored by the National Center on Family Homelessness at American Institutes for Research shows that the number of homeless children in the country has reached a record high, amounting to one in thirty children being homeless! This means that 2.5 million children in the United States go to sleep without a home of their own each night, a historic high in the number of homeless children in the U.S.
From 2012 to 2013, the number of children experiencing homelessness annually in the US increased by 8% nationally and increased in 31 states as well as in the District of Columbia. But, every state has children experiencing homelessness, with estimations indicating that about half of homeless children are under the age of 6.
Homelessness has terrible impacts on children, for homeless children are especially vulnerable to other issues: they are facing hunger, are more susceptible to illness, and struggle in school. Up to 25% of homeless children in pre-school have mental health problems that require clinical evaluation, though they do not always receive this care. When homeless children enter primary school, they are even more likely to have these mental health problems, for 40% of homeless school-age children have mental health issues that would warrant some form of clinical evaluation. Research indicates that homelessness can lead children – especially young children – to experience changes in the architecture of their brain that can interfere with cognitive skill development, emotional self-regulation, and the overall ability to learn.
The major causes of American homelessness include the high national poverty rate, a lack of affordable housing across the country, the Great Recession’s continuing impacts, racial disparities, the challenges of single parenting, and how traumatic experiences, such as domestic violence, precede and prolong homelessness for families. High costs of living, compounded by the lack of affordable housing, further exacerbates the problem. Federal housing assistance, state housing assistance, and incentives for developers to build low-income housing units have met the high demand to feed America’s homeless.
One way that we can take action is by encouraging Congress and the Director of the Federal Housing Finance Administration (FHFA) to re-establish adequate funding for the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF). In 2008, Congress created the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) to create 3.5 million affordable housing units. However, due to a loophole in the law, the NHTF never received funding and it’s time to look for alternatives that will make this effort successful. Take action and urge tell your Members of Congress and FHFA Director Mel Watt to reestablish funding for the National Housing Trust Fund.
Our Jewish tradition further stresses how we need to ensure that no one will go hungry. In Isaiah 58:7, we are taught to "Share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house." In this week’s Torah portion, we read about how “Jacob was a homespun man, keeping to the tents” (Genesis 25:27). 2.5 million children in the United States do not have access to their own dwelling place. We must think about what we can do to ensure that all of these children have a home.