On Tuesday, a coalition of groups including CWLA sponsored a Capitol Hill briefing, Understanding and Meeting the Needs of Families Experiencing Homelessness. The briefing included Mary Haskett (NC State), Carmela DeCandia (Artemis Associates), Grace Whitney (IMH-E Schoolhouse Connections), Preston Britner (University of Connecticut), Anne Farrell (Chapin Hall, Chicago) and Ruth White (National Council on Homelessness and Child Welfare).
Some of the key points made include: families are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population (37 percent of the overall homeless population; 50 percent of the sheltered population); 1.2 million homeless children and youth were identified by public schools in the 2014-15 school year (a 34 percent increase since the recession ended); 35 states reported an increase in their homeless student populations between 2012 and 2014; and homelessness among unaccompanied youth increased by 21 percent over three years.
The potential negative consequences for children in these families include a higher risk of developmental delays, social-emotional challenges, depression and suicidality, and increased likelihood of becoming a school dropout.
Homeless mothers are four times more likely to be African American and one-and-a-half times more likely to be Latina; 81 percent are exposed to multiple traumas; 60 to 70 percent have been subject to domestic violence; and 45 to 85 percent are experiencing clinical depression.
In terms of Capitol Hill advocacy, one of the messages was the need expand support for training of providers in assessment, and that housing first, with integrated trauma-informed, family-centered, two-generation approaches can stabilize and strengthen families within community.
Part of the discussion was a review of some current supportive housing services. This is an approach that wraps housing assistance with case management and service coordination. Since 1998, Supportive Housing for Families (SHF) has served 2,725 families involved with the child welfare system, and 2,062 of those families have already exited the program, with 63 percent in permanent housing (vs. 8.6 percent at entry). Of the 168 families admitted in 2013, 91 percent of families achieved permanent housing within one year of enrollment, and 88 percent of children remained in the home with their parent(s) rather than in foster care.
One of the legislative messages was the support of the Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2017 (S. 611/ H.R. 1511). The legislation, reintroduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Congressman Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-IA), would allow communities to use homeless assistance funding to target the most vulnerable homeless children, youth, and families in their community, regardless of the form of homelessness. CWLA supports this legislation.
CWLA has just released an issue of our Child Welfare Journal that looks at the critical problem of housing instability within the context of child welfare. Home ownership reduces the transmission of intergenerational poverty; promotes educational attainment; and increases parental and family satisfaction, happiness, and well-being. Housing, Homelessness, and Economic Security takes a closer look at these issues.