Homelessness at any age can have devastating effects; however, young children are particularly susceptible to the negative outcomes associated with homelessness because their brains are developing rapidly.[i] In 2021, Child Care Services Association (CCSA) released An Invisible Crisis: Early Childhood Homelessness—A Primer by Anna Sucsy, a report on early childhood homelessness that found that 30-40% of those who are homeless are families with young children. But, because families often stay with friends or extended family, stay in motels and hotels, sleep in cars and stay in shelters rather than sleep on the streets, childhood homelessness is often hidden from public view. [ii]
In order to develop the best policy recommendations for families with young children, in late 2021, CCSA released a document by Rosalind Kotz, Ph.D. for CCSA, A Data Snapshot of Young Children at Risk of Homelessness in North Carolina, that was designed to enhance our understanding of the risk factors associated with homelessness among North Carolina families with very young children (under age 6). Rosalind Kotz, Ph.D. and Scot Felderman with K&F Community Research and Planning Consultants knew that CCSA hoped to learn more about the homelessness of young children in North Carolina. Using their past research experience with the HUD data system, K&F examined HUD data specific to NC children under age 18, with a breakout of children birth to 5 to complete a new report, Homelessness Among Infants, Toddlers, Preschool and School-Age Children in Orange County, Durham County and “Balance of State” Continuums of Care, FY 2021. They were able to collect this data through the work and cooperation of the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness (NCCEH), which maintains the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data system for the Orange County, Durham County, and Balance of State CoCs.
It is clear that historic inequities and systemic racism play a significant role in homelessness in the U.S. The overrepresentation of people of color, particularly Black individuals and families with substandard or no housing is well documented and has its origins in discriminatory practices such as real estate red-lining and unequal access to financing. This report illustrates this tragedy by documenting the disproportionate number of children of color experiencing homelessness in areas of North Carolina. At the same time, efforts are being made nationally[iii] and across NC[iv] to create change and better serve historically underserved populations.
The data in this report captures only those families and children in HUD-supported programs that are listed in the report. While the HMIS is among the best available data, it is missing children and families who do not meet the HUD definition of homelessness. In addition, this report also does not include data from the remaining nine CoC’s in the state. In the future, CCSA would like to replicate this study with those CoCs.
We thank K&F Community Research and Planning Consultants and the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness for this look at important data on children experiencing homelessness. We hope this information is helpful in our work to best meet to meet the needs of young children and families in our communities and in our state.
Looking for more information? You can see additional materials on our website here.
[i] Shonkoff, J. (2017). Breakthrough Impacts: What Science Tells Us About Supporting Early Childhood Development. YC Young Children, 72(2), 8–16. https://developingchild.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/ Science_Early_Childhood_Development.pdf
[iii] Home, Together: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. https://www.usich.gov/resources/uploads/asset_library/Home-Together-Federal-Strategic-Plan-to-Prevent-and-End-Homelessness.pdf
[iv] Evaluating Racial disparities in the North Carolina Balance of State CoC. https://www.ncceh.org/media/files/files/d6870c46/2019-racial-equity-document-final.pdf