By Shawn Griffin
Last week NPR told the story of Jennifer Carter, currently living at a homeless shelter in Salt Lake City, Utah with her five- and seven-year old. Jennifer’s story is representative of a trend. According to The American Almanac of Family Homelessness, the typical homeless family in the U.S. includes a single mom and one or two children.
By all accounts Jennifer had done things right. She earned a degree in business management and accounting. She had a full-time job and worked during the day while her kids were in school. She had an apartment and the family was getting by. She stretched her $13.50 per hour wage to cover rent on a two-bedroom apartment and a staggering $800 per month for afterschool care for her two children.
$800 per month. Two children, two hours per day, five days per week. Four weeks a month. Nearly as much as her $900 per month rent. Jennifer was barely getting by, but she was getting by.
That all changed when her work hours were changed to evenings. There was no way she could afford increased afterschool costs for her kids.
In Jennifer’s case, the cost of caring for her children while she was at work was the tipping point. Her family ended up in a shelter. It’s stories like this—affecting families across the country—that inspired me to share my expertise at the Beyond Housing Conference sponsored by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homeless January 13-15 in New York City.
It is not okay that families make up nearly 40% of the homeless population in the U.S. It is not okay that nearly 1.3 million children in the US are homeless at some point every year (National Child Traumatic Stress Network). It is not okay that families are losing their homes because they have to choose between affordable afterschool programs and a job.
It is time to do something. So I’m joining hundreds of practitioners, policymakers and service providers to help figure this out. I want to contribute to a solution that ensures Jennifer Carter’s kids don’t have to go to school tired because they are sleeping in a loud common room with 198 other people. I want to ensure moms don’t have to lose their homes because they can’t afford afterschool programs for their kids. I won’t tolerate 1.3 million children homeless each year in the US. Join me and fellow practitioners, policymakers, and service providers to share new and effective programs, solutions, and policies aimed at reducing poverty and homelessness among children and families. Register today at http://bit.ly/BeyondHousing2016.