Child and youth homelessness has been on the rise even before the pandemic. Pre-COVID, an estimated 1-in-41 school-age children were homeless, while young children — those under 6 — experience twice that rate with 1-in-18 living in homeless situations. Homelessness is even more prevalent among children of color —Black, Hispanic, Native American, Native Hawaiian and Alaskan high school students disproportionately experience homelessness compared to their white or Asian peers. Millions more children and youth remain at-risk of eviction and homelessness – over 8 million renters with children in their household reported last month that they have little or no confidence in their ability to pay next month’s rent.

The pandemic and its economic fallout continue to have the most impact on those that were already struggling, and we know that school closures, loss of parental employment, and the general upheaval caused by COVID-19 was particularly tough for children and youth who are in households with nowhere safe to quarantine or do remote learning, plus little access to technology and no economic reserves to weather these tough times.

While we don’t yet have national numbers yet on the rate of child and youth homelessness for both years of the pandemic, some early analysis shows that the very likely increase in child and youth homelessness in most areas due to COVID is going to prove hard to measure.  A survey from SchoolHouse Connection and the University of Michigan found that 420,000 fewer students experiencing homelessness nationally were identified and enrolled in school in the early 2020-2021 school year due to the inability of schools to identify homeless children and youth while schools were closed.  

The panelists had several recommendations to address and prevent child, youth, and family homelessness, including:

Barbara Duffield, Executive Director of SchoolHouse Connection: “We, along with First Focus Campaign for Children, Family Promise and the National Network for Youth, strongly champion the Homeless Children and Youth Act (H.R. 6287/S.1469), which is legislation that would amend the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of homelessness to include children, youth, and families that are identified as homeless by other federal programs that have a more inclusive definition of homelessness.  This is long overdue, and particularly in the pandemic, it is very very necessary. I think there is a perception out there that staying with other people is a less vulnerable situation but that’s not what we see for families and children.”

Katrina Bostick, Executive Director of Family Promise of the Coastal Empire:  “We need to take a look at policies around mental health and making sure that the children that we serve, the young adults and the adults that we serve, have adequate access to healthcare and mental health because that is important and when families experience trauma, it can be lifelong.”

Please listen to the recording of this conversation for more information, and see below for important resources referenced during the conversation:

This session was a part of a comprehensive series of conversations throughout the months of March and April 2022. We will continue to hear from experts, advocates, and policy leaders to discuss all of the ways this crisis has impacted the lives of children — from education and juvenile justice, housing to child poverty, nutrition, and global health — and we welcome you to join us for these live, interactive conversations. Click here to register.