The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual assessment vastly underestimates how many families and youth are currently homeless in the United States (“Mass. homeless up 14 percent, as shelters struggle to keep up,” Metro, Dec. 19).
HUD’s flawed methodology does not account for hundreds of thousands of children or their parents who have become invisible to the system. The agency’s “Point-in-Time” approach counts only people in shelters, in transitional housing, or seen on the streets. Of the 1.3 million homeless school-age children and youth, more than 80 percent are missed, since only 13.9 percent of these kids are staying in shelters and just 3.7 percent are in the streets.
Most often, families and youth are living in unstable, temporary housing with “friends” or relatives, surfing from couch to couch, or sleeping in garages, cars, or motels. These unsafe, hidden forms of homelessness put them at risk of trafficking as well as exposure to drugs and violence. The repetitive trauma inherent in these experiences counters what should be shared goals of housing stability and family well-being.
Years of research and clinical experience have laid the groundwork for creative solutions. One excellent example is the bipartisan Homeless Children and Youth Act, which addresses the shortcomings of HUD’s methodology. Homeless families in Massachusetts and across the country deserve long-overdue changes.