On Monday, the National Center on Family Homelessness released a report that said one in 30 children, or roughly 2.5 million kids, are homeless in America. That’s an increase of 8 percent from their 2012-2013 findings.
But on Oct. 30, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released a report saying that on a given night in January, more than 578,000 people had experienced homelessness, with nearly 136,000 of those being children. HUD labels these numbers as a decline from the prior year’s study.
Why the discrepancy in findings? For that you’ll have to take a look at each report’s methodology for collecting information.
The National Center on Family Homelessness pulls their data from the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Census. According to Carmela DeCandia, one of the report’s authors, this data encompasses the broadest form of homelessness to includes children of families who are not able to afford their own place to live, those who double-up with others and students who couch-surf. Three-quarters of children included in the study are in doubled-up living situations.
HUD’s numbers, on the other hand, are a snapshot of what homelessness in America looks like on one single night. Each year since 2007, during the third week of January, volunteers from 300,000 cities and counties nationwide have gone out and physically counted the number of homeless people on the streets and in shelters.
According to HUD’s Brian Sullivan, it’s a “a picture — a point-in-time measure” of the “undeniably homeless.”
So, which study is more accurate? That depends on what you define as homeless.