Department of Education Numbers Show the Consequences of America’s Affordable Housing Crisis

Over the course of the 2017-2018 school year, homeless school liaisons identified 1.5 million children living in doubled up situations due to economic necessity, in hotels or motels, in shelters or transitional housing, and in unsheltered locations.  Nearly 9 percent of identified students, 129,370, were living without a parent or guardian.

This represents an increase of 15 percent over the number of children identified by school liaisons over the 2015-2016 school . Increases in Texas alone accounted for over half of the national increase, may be partially explained by families displaced by Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath.

The U.S. Department of Education relies on this data to understand the prevalence and educational support needs of children without homes to call their own. The report also provides useful information about the consequences of the nation’s failure to invest in affordable housing.

The report found:

  • Doubled Up. Nearly 1.12 million children lived in doubled up situations over the 2017-2018 school year (living with a friend or extended family to manage housing costs).  This accounts for 74 percent of children identified as experiencing homelessness by school liaisons.  Nationally, the Alliance estimates that 4.4 million people annually double up due to the shortage of affordable housing.
  • Shelter/Transitional Housing. Over the 2017-2018 school year, homeless school liaisons identified 182,659 children who resided in an emergency shelter or transitional housing or were awaiting a foster care placement. This accounts for 12 percent of all children identified as experiencing homelessness by school liaisons. Homeless service providers reported serving slightly over 100,000 children under the age of 18 on a single night in 2018. Almost 300,000 children were served in emergency shelter or transitional housing with their families over the course of 2017, the most recent year from which data is available. Nearly half of the children were age five or younger. 
  • Hotels/Motels. Homeless school liaisons identified just over 100,000 children residing in hotels/motels over the 2017-2018 school year. This represents an increase of 20,000 children over the 2015-2016 school year; a 24 percent increase.  This is the only available national measure of people residing in hotels/motels as a primary residence. Some of the increase may be related to families impacted by Hurricane Harvey and the infusion of federal funds to provide temporary housing to displaced people.
  • Unsheltered. Homeless school liaisons identified over 100,000 children that experienced unsheltered homelessness over the 2017-2018 school year. This is an increase of 137 percent in the number of unsheltered children identified by school liaisons over the 2015-2016 school year. Homeless service providers are unable to provide an annual count of the children that experience unsheltered homelessness, but an extensive nationwide effort to count unsheltered people on a single night found over 10,000 children under the age of 18 living without shelter, including minors unaccompanied by parents or guardians.

Children need safe, stable, and affordable housing

There is ample evidence that the national affordable housing crisis is taking a toll on families. The new report issued by the National Center for Homeless Education adds to the compelling data with a snapshot of some of the most vulnerable victims of the housing crisis: school-age children seeking an education.

The nation must address the affordable housing crisis. The disconnect between what families earn and what they must pay for housing results in families taking on an enormous financial burden, simply to have a place to live.  It leads to families doubling up due to economic necessity, residing in motels and hotels when they have no other option, and, for those that run out of alternatives, entering homeless service programs or unsheltered homelessness.

What can you do?

The Alliance is a proud partner of the Opportunity Starts at Home Campaign, which is dedicated to ensuring that “America’s low-income households have access to safe, decent, and stable affordable housing in neighborhoods where everyone has equitable opportunities to thrive.” The Alliance encourages you to join that campaign.  

The Alliance also invites partners to help secure increase in annual federal funding for affordable housing and homeless assistance programs. For more information on action steps you can take to secure more support for at-risk and homeless families, please visit the Alliance webpage: Take Action.