Joint Guidance Document on Meeting the Needs of Families with Young Children Experiencing and At Risk of Homelessness Released

 

Homelessness in the United States is a complex and persistent problem. For families with young children experiencing homelessness, the challenges are highlighted based on their unique needs and characteristics. Challenges begin early and without intervention can continue throughout the lives of children experiencing homelessness. Hunger, homelessness, violence, and parental attention all affect childhood well-being. Children who are born to mothers who are homeless have low birth weight and require specialized care at four times the rate of their non-homeless peers.2

Homeless child on sidewalk with no shoesWe know that families experiencing homelessness share the same characteristics as other low-income families. They are usually headed by a single woman in her late 20s, with approximately two children, one or both under six years of age. They face significant challenges, including poverty and exposure to family and community violence. However, families experiencing homelessness have less access to housing subsidies and supportive services and have weaker social networks. More than 80% have experienced domestic violence.3

Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness is based on the vision that no one should experience homelessness—no one should be without a safe, stable place to call home. It remains focused on four goals:

  • Prevent and end homelessness among Veterans in 2015;
  • Finish the job of ending chronic homelessness in 2017; Prevent and end homelessness for families, youth and children in 2020; and
  • Set a path to ending all types of homelessness.

Families experiencing homelessness have varying housing and service needs. Therefore, Family Connection: Building Systems to End Family Homelessness is aimed at expanding an effective partnership with communities across the country to prevent and end homelessness for families. In our interagency work, since 2013, we’ve had a working group involving multiple federal agencies to better coordinate our work around family homelessness and early childhood homelessness.

On October 31, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Education (ED) issued a joint Guidance Document on Meeting the Needs of Families with Young Children Experiencing and At Risk of Homelessness. In the guidance, we provide research and recommendations on ways in which early childhood and housing providers at the local and, in some cases, State levels can intentionally collaborate to provide safe, stable, and nurturing environments for pregnant women and families with young children who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness. See the Guidance, examples of collaborations around the country and recommended strategies and activities

Ending family and early childhood homelessness in America will require the concerted efforts of all of us. Every parent and child experiencing homelessness across the country is counting on us all to persevere.

HHS, HUD and ED provide the recommendations and strategies above can help move us closer to this shared goal so every young child and parent has the opportunity to thrive.

See the guidance.

An infographic on early childhood homelessness shows that, in the United States:

  • infancy is the age at which individuals are most likely to enter shelter or transitional housing
  • almost half (more than 150,000) of children in shelters are under age 6
  • homelessness during pregnancy and in the early years is harmful to children’s development

Given the research showing the importance of addressing early childhood homelessness, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Education created the interagency guidance document on early childhood homelessness. This statement recommends ways early childhood and housing providers at the local and state levels can collaborate to better meet the needs of pregnant women and families with young children who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.


1 Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness Amendment 2012; https://www.usich.gov/resources/uploads/asset_library/USICH_OD_Amendm...

2 National Association of State Directors of Special Education; http://nasdse.org/DesktopModules/DNNspot-Store/ProductFiles/9_e1838c3...

3 United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, Families with Children, May 2016; https://www.usich.gov/goals/families

 

Last Reviewed: April 25, 2016