Childhood Homelessness

The homeless population includes not only adults but also the children these adults bring with them into homelessness. One-fourth of homeless people are children in homeless families. These children are much more likely than housed children to experience serious difficulties, including physical, cognitive, emotional, and mental problems. Further, childhood homelessness translates into a greater risk of homelessness in adulthood.

Most children living with homeless parents are very young (42 percent are under age 6) and are therefore physically and emotionally vulnerable in the event of household disruptions. Children living with homeless parents, however, are not the only children affected by homelessness. Three out of five homeless people are parents, and half these parents have at least one child age 17 or younger. But only one in four of these children live with the homeless parent.

Children of homeless mothers are much more likely to stay with their homeless parent (54 percent) than are children of homeless fathers (7 percent). Children of homeless fathers typically live with their mothers outside of homelessness. Children not living with their homeless mothers tend to live with relatives other than their fathers (46 percent) or in foster care (19 percent). A period in foster care is a strong predictor of future homelessness.