Policy Statement on Meeting the Needs of Families with Young Children Experiencing and At Risk of Homelessness

Policy Statement on Meeting the Needs of Families with Young Children Experiencing and At Risk of Homelessness

Purpose

This policy statement provides recommendations from the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Education (ED) on ways in which early childhood and housing providers at the local and, in some cases, State levels can collaborate to provide safe, stable, and nurturing environments for pregnant women and families with young children who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness. The intended audience for this policy statement includes State and local early childhood, housing, and homeless providers, as well as policymakers who work in this space. The recommendations in this policy statement focus on better meeting the needs of these highly vulnerable families through stronger partnerships between early care, learning, health, and development settings and Continuums of Care (CoCs), housing programs, and emergency shelter providers.
Recent data indicate that among persons who seek shelter because they are homeless in the United States, the age group most likely to experience homelessness includes newborns or infants in the first year of life, and they are next most likely to experience homelessness at ages one to five.This is particularly troubling given that research suggests that homelessness during pregnancy and in the early years is harmful to children’s development. These data and research warrant immediate attention from policymakers as well as State and local early childhood and housing and homeless providers and community leaders.
This policy statement highlights recent research and resources, and provides the following three major recommendations aimed at local and State early childhood, housing, and homeless providers to consider when addressing the unique needs of pregnant women and families with young children who are experiencing homelessness,3 or who are at risk of experiencing homelessness: 
  1. Support a two-generation approach to meet the needs of both parents and their young children experiencing homelessness by developing and strengthening partnerships across housing and early childhood programs and systems to obtain and sustain housing, achieve stability, ensure positive early experiences, and promote well-being for the whole family;
  2. Enhance integration of early childhood programs and systems with local homeless assistance systems’ “coordinated entry” processes to ensure immediate needs, such as housing, are assessed and addressed quickly, and families continue to be regularly assessed for ongoing service needs;
  3. Improve, leverage, and share data on early childhood homelessness to build service connections, better understand the particular challenges facing these families, and build upon evidence-based practices for serving them

Strengthening how local early childhood, housing, and homeless providers work together to meet the needs of pregnant women and families with young children experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness is a critical step toward achieving the goal of preventing and ending homelessness among families by 2020, as outlined in Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.

Research Highlights

  • Individuals are most likely to experience homelessness in infancy.
  • Almost half of children in shelters are under age 6.
  • Homelessness during pregnancy and in the early years is harmful to children’s development.
  • Families experiencing homelessness have unique needs.
    • Many families are affected by trauma
    • About a quarter of families experiencing homelessness are headed by young parents.
    • Families experiencing homelessness are disproportionately from underserved racial groups 
ORGANIZATION: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; U.S. Department of Education
PUBLICATION DATE: 2016
LOCATION: United States