Washington DC – Yesterday, a coalition of 30 national organizations joined together to urge President Obama to address the growing crisis of homelessness facing children and families by strengthening the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH). Specifically, the groups have asked President Obama to expand USICH efforts to focus on the drastic rises in homelessness among children and families. To date, the USICH has been almost solely focused on chronically homeless single adults, just one segment of the homeless population.

In a letter to the President spearheaded by First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization, the coalition also urges a strengthening of interagency communication and coordination to more effectively and efficiently prevent and address homelessness. Created by Congress, the USICH organizes cross-agency leadership to coordinate services and supports for Americans experiencing homelessness. Preliminary data from the US Department of Education show an 18 percent increase in homeless students from the school year ending in 2007 to the school year ending in 2008.

The letter is signed by 30 national groups, including First Focus, the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, the National Policy and Advocacy Council on Homelessness, the National Center on Family Homelessness, the National Parent Teacher Association, the United Way of America, and the YMCA of the USA.

“As the number of homeless children and youth continues to rise due to our nation’s struggling economy, so does the need for better coordinated services and supports to assist these families in need,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus. “Children who are homeless are more likely to fall behind in school, loose access to health care, and suffer from behavioral and emotional problems. The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness has the potential to protect and ensure that these vulnerable children have every opportunity to experience the promise of America.”

The letter reads, “Homeless children live in unstable, unsafe circumstances… These factors combine to create a life altering experience for young people who, with reasonable and equal opportunities, could be thriving.”

A report released last year by First Focus revealed that over 2 million children will be directly impacted by the foreclosure crisis. A follow up report released in December found that due to the economic and housing crises, school districts across the country have experienced a significant spike in the number of homeless students.