Giving Compass' Take:

• The author discusses that outside funding sources, as well as local state governments, need to play a role in helping the youngest children who are currently experiencing homelessness. 

• How can donors provide targeted assistance to young homeless children and their families? Are there critical partnerships between the public and private sector that can address family homelessness? 

• Read the Giving Compass Guide to homelessness for donors. 

More than 140,000 children age five or under spent a night in a homeless shelter or transitional housing program over the course of 2017, according to the recently released HUD Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR). More than 30,000 were infants.

Each year when localities take a one-day snapshot of homelessness, voluntary surveyors find children in unsheltered locations. This means children are spending the night in cars, garages, abandoned buildings, campgrounds or other outdoor locations.

The best thing that homeless service systems can do for young children is to help them and their parents reconnect quickly to permanent housing and prevent them from ever experiencing a night without a roof over their head.

This has clear benefits for children. A recently released study found that prolonged homelessness (defined as living in shelter, transitional housing, motel, unsheltered location or with no consistent place to sleep) is associated with adverse outcomes for infants and toddlers.

A recent analysis by the National Alliance to End Homelessness indicates that nationally only a third of families who experience a shelter or transitional housing stay receive targeted help (e.g. rapid re-housing or permanent supportive housing) to help them reconnect to permanent housing.

Other funding resources are typically required to get to the scale necessary so that every family has the help they need to exit homelessness. This can include public housing agencies prioritizing families experiencing homelessness for permanent rent assistance. It can include committing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or other state-controlled funding resources to provide temporary or permanent rental assistance.

State and local partners can also dedicate staff time — from TANF agencies, Workforce Development organizations, mental and behavioral health programs and Community Action Agencies — to help minimize the time children and their parents spend homeless.

Read the full article about homelessness and the youngest children by Sharon McDonald at National Alliance to End Homelessness