Washington— Homelessness among children has doubled since the recession. In the 2013-2014 school year, more than 1.36 million school-age children were homeless, up from nearly 680,000 in the 2006-2007 school year.
Despite the need for federal housing programs, homeless children and families face significant red tape to accessing help. They must be certified as homeless, but obtaining that certification is very difficult.
Homeless children and families are constantly on the move and are often unable to document their whereabouts or proof that they will only be staying in their current location, whether it be a motel or friend’s couch, temporarily.
To fix this problem, the U.S. Department of Education this week implemented a policy change making it easier for homeless school-age children to obtain the required certification. The change will allow trained school personnel to verify that children are homeless and eligible for federal services by writing a letter on their behalf. Children and their families would then use the letter to access federal housing programs administered by nonprofits in their communities.
The change was mandated by an amendment authored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that was included in the Every Child Achieves Act, which became law last year.
“Today, 1.3 million American children have no permanent roof over their heads. We know that homelessness makes it much harder for children to learn and affects them for a lifetime,” said Senator Feinstein. “We should be making it easier for these children and their families to secure housing, not harder. By allowing trained school personnel to verify that children are homeless, it will be easier for them to get the help they need and succeed in school.”