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As child advocates, we hear disheartening statistics daily about the state of America’s kids. And, although many of these data points are sobering, one that always gives me heartburn is the number of U.S. children living below the poverty line, a number that has grown by 2 million over the past two years. We regularly hear the media comment on the economy’s recovery, but rarely do we hear about the impact of the economic downturn on children, let alone hear directly from the kids who are continuing to experience the horrific side-effects of the Great Recession.

Last weekend, 60 Minutes created a stirring report on homeless children whose families have been impacted by the recession. These children are part of the statistics First Focus relays almost daily. They represent the one in five children who live in poverty, and the one in four children dependent on food stamps. Seminole County, Florida was chosen for the 60 Minutes report—a county with a rather high foreclosure rate right outside of Orlando . In Seminole County, sixty-seven motels on the way to Disney World house approximately 500 homeless children and their families. Local schools currently educate 1,000 homeless students. Perhaps the most heartbreaking (yet effective) aspect of the 60 Minutes piece is that instead of reporting facts and interviewing parents, they interviewed the children themselves. And no hard question (quite frankly the ones that you hope you would never have to pose to a child) was left unasked:

What is it like to go hungry? What is it like to have the lights shut out in your house? What is it like to live in a car or a neighbors’ house?

“I feel like it’s my fault that they don’t have money. I feel like it’s my fault that they have to pay for me, and the clothes they pay for me”, says one student says to the reporter, Scott Pelley.

The answers given by these students are incredibly painful but important to hear. These children actually feel responsible for tragedies that have befallen their families. They feel shame. They feel guilt. They want to drop out of school to get jobs to help their families.

While the 60 Minutes piece sheds a vital light on the uncomfortable truths, the report also leaves unanswered what a community, a state, or a country can do to help children and families in need. (Although in 60 Minutes’ defense, there is no quick and easy answer to this question.) However, in a political climate where the House of Representatives moving to eliminate foreclosure assistance programs and Members of Congress are calling for massive cuts to safety net, community engagement, and education programs, a good place to start stemming the epidemic of homeless children in America is by first protecting the programs that safeguard the livelihood of children who need it most.

For more information on child poverty and housing stability: