Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Texas Worst Place for Homeless Children

Pretty soon I'm going to need a "worst at" label for stories about the ways Texas is failing its citizens (h/t Adam):

A study by the National Center on Family Homelessness released Tuesday placed Texas 50th — last of all states — in how homeless children fare.

The ranking considered four areas: the percentage of homeless children; their overall well-being; risk factors for homelessness, such as poverty and foreclosure rates; and what the state is doing to address the problems.

Dr. Ellen Bassuk, president of the national center that produced the report, said the child poverty level in Texas is 23 percent, compared to 18 percent nationwide.

"You're a big state, you've got a significant problem," said Bassuk, who also is an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "Texas needs to respond."


The center estimates that 1.5 million children nationwide experienced homelessness at least once in 2005-2006. The states that fared best were Connecticut, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Rhode Island and North Dakota. At the bottom were Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, New Mexico and Louisiana.

Texas has more than 337,000 homeless children — just over 5 percent of all kids living in the state, according to the study. It noted, however, that number may have been temporarily inflated by families who lost their homes during the hurricanes Rita and Katrina in 2005.

Bassuk said that while Texas has a trust created to provide low-income housing — something a lot of states don't have — it has no statewide plan in place to address homeless issues.

Across the U.S., the study found that one of every 50 kids are homeless each year. The rate in Texas is probably a bit higher.

And with the way the economy is going, that rate will only increase. Such is the nature of these things; just as people need more help, the state has less money to spend. Which is why Governor Perry's grandstanding on the stimulus package seems even more ridiculous in light of reports like this one.

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