Map: Where is Childhood Homelessness Getting Worse?

by and Bill Rockwood

The number of homeless students in the United States reached a record high last year, according to new data from the Education Department showing that 1.2 million children had no place to call home.

The troubling new report casts light on a problem that four years into the nation’s economic recovery, has only grown worse. The total number of homeless children enrolled in preschools and K-12 programs rose 10 percent during the 2011-12 school year and 24 percent since the beginning of the 2009-10 academic year, according to the report.

In all, 41 states saw a rise in homelessness among school-aged children last year. Fifteen states reported a gain of at least 10 percent while another 10 states reported spikes of 20 percent or more. The map below breaks down the changes:

Less than 10% Growth10% or more20% or more30% or more

source: National Center for Homeless Education

The department’s data — assembled by the National Center for Homeless Education — found that 75 percent of homeless children lived in “doubled-up” housing, which means they were “sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason.” Roughly 20 percent lived either in shelters or motels. Another 4 percent spent their days in school but at night stayed in cars, parks, campgrounds, temporary trailers, abandoned buildings or other substandard housing.

Last November, FRONTLINE traveled to the Quad Cities along the border of Iowa and Illinois to witness firsthand the affects that childhood poverty is having on a new generation of American children. In Poor Kids, filmmaker Jezza Neumann followed six children who not only faced uncertain living situations, but also near-constant hunger, the stigma of a life in poverty, and the stress that comes from watching a parent struggle. As one of the children told Neumann, “If I keep missing school, then I see my future poor, on the streets, in a box, not even, and asking for money everywhere, everybody, and then stealing stuff from stores. And yeah, I don’t want to steal stuff. I don’t want to do any of that stuff.”

Watch the film below:

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