Report card gives Washington poor marks in confronting child homelessness
Judging from the release of the State Report Card on Child Homelessness, Washington state might have to work a little harder, given it took home a barely passing grade.
According to “America’s Youngest Outcasts 2010,” a report issued by the National Center on Family Homelessness, Washington ranked 19 out of 50 states in its efforts to address child homelessness. The report identified 37,631 Washington children without housing in 2010.
While noting the state’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness included an extensive focus on children and families without homes, the report card showed only 725 emergency shelters and 2,921 transitional units for families. The report card defined homelessness as one residing in emergency or transitional shelters, sharing housing with others due to home loss or economic hardship, and living in cars, parks or public spaces.
State wages, the report card said, impacted child homelessness. For example, while Washington’s minimum wage was $8.55/hour, an adult who wanted to live in a two-bedroom apartment needed to earn $17.68/hour. Confronted by this wage gap, nearly a quarter of state households paid more than 50 percent of their income for rent.
The report also makes evident that in Washington, child homelessness has gotten worse. In 2007, Washington received a ranking of 14; in 2010, that rank slipped five points. In 2007, the state ranked 29th in the nation for the number of foreclosures; by 2010, state foreclosures brought the ranking down to 35.
But the reality in Washington mirrors a broader truth for the nation: The number of homeless children continues to rise. Nationwide in 2010, more than 1.6 million children were homeless, or one in 45 children. In 2007, a survey turned up 1.2 million children.
The report card determined the overall increase was the result of national disasters, though disasters forged by two different causes: natural and human made. For natural disasters, the foundation’s findings pointed to the displacement caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita; for human made, the foundation found fault with financial speculation that created the collapse of the housing market and financial institutions. But the findings concluded the immense fall-out from the human-made disaster, which spurred the Great Recession, has proven far worse for children and families than both hurricanes.
The report tabulated composite scores for each state based upon four categories: extent of child homelessness, child wellbeing, risk for child homelessness and state policy and planning efforts.
If Washington can take away any modicum of success from the report card, it can claim it wasn’t identified as one of the five worst states for child homelessness. Those states, in descending order, were California, our nation’s most populous state, Arizona and the losing Southeastern troika of Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama.
Which state came out on top? Vermont, with a ranking that has steadily improved over the past five years.
To download the 124-page report card from the National Center on Family Homelessness, visit homelesschildrenamerica.org/reportcard.php
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