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« As Need Continues to Swell: Our Core Values and Approaches | Main | Vote Yes to Invest in Topeka! »

Help Children Avoid Homelessness: Start with the Parents

By Gerald Britt
March 12, 2009

The issue of child homelessness, has a very simple solution - provide support and easier access to support for parents of poor children.

For instance, according to The National Center on Family Homelessness, Fair Market Rent for a two bedroom apartment is $781 a month. A single mother making minimum wage ($6.55 an hour), would have to work 92 hours a week to afford rent. To afford an apartment at FMR, means that a single working adult would have to make at least $15 an hour. The typical homeless family in my state, Texas, is a single mother on public assistance and receives less than $713 a month (less than 50% of the Federal Poverty Level. The answer (or at least an answer): Texas should take advantage of its flexibility in providing child care vouchers, giving priority to the children of homeless parents, allowing them to participate in job training programs that prepare them for jobs that pay a living wage.

For 2% of the state budget ($834 million), Texas could provide housing at FMR, for its homeless population.

Texas can also provide health care for all uninsured children in Texas (about 1.5 million, between 21-25% of the state's children). If state lawmakers pass legislation that provides greater access to SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program) and Medicaid, Texas not only avoids the heavier burden of financial and social costs of associated with kids who go years without consistent medical care, Texas' tax dollars are returned to the state through the SCHIP program.

The federal match for every dollar spent on SCHIP, is $2.52. For Medicaid, the federal match is $1.47. The more children enrolled, the more the state benefits financially. By making it possible for children to enroll in Medicaid once a year instead of twice a year, it removes a cumbersome step that can at times interfere with the care and treatment of sick children.

In the area of hunger, Texas can also strengthen and improve its outreach to families eligible for food stamps. Enrolling everyone eligible for food stamps pays is good business. Hungry, homeless children aren't.

Sixty-seven percent of eligible Texans received food stamps. In Dallas County that translates into approximately 52,000, eligible Texans who didn't receive them. It cost the grocers in Dallas County more than $173 million to have a third of its residents eligible citizens not participating in this program. Food stamp eligible Texans with children enrolled in the program are below the 67% mark - its at 58%. Which means that millions of dollars are not flowing through the economy because of insufficient outreach. Make no mistake about it, either way you slice it, food stamps are currency you don't save, its currency you spend.

These are just a few ways that Texas can abate the problem of homelessness among children. No philanthropic initiative will help them more than public policy changes that provide an opportunity their parents to care for them.

Comments (3)

Greg Pedersen Author Profile Page:

Another good start Gerald is, and I'll say it again, charitable contributions. I give every year to "Food for the Poor". A Christian organization through my church that provides support to the poorest of the poor living in unimaginable squalor through parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It's operating overhead is a very impressive 4%. And besides providing food and clean water, they also provide shelter.

Right here at home I discovered that there are 672 charities that provide support for homeless children and their families. A couple are "" and "". Not only do they provide support for immediate needs, but also their future. Can you imagine if a lot more of us got involved with independent charities. There's power in numbers.

A lot of your colleagues, including yourself, lecture to me about the politics behind this problem and what the government should do. I say, screw the government! They're a bust when it comes to health care and the charity business. The government is broke anyway, right?

Everyone here at EC, check the above charity web sites or some others. If you see what you like, break out your checkbook.

levihenry Author Profile Page:

Rev. Britt:

I found a scorecard for the 50 states on youth homelessness as I was researching other items the other evening. The link is:

Ironically, it tended to show that Wichita's public schools, which I commented on the other day, are pretty much on a nation-wide average at 1:50 youth homelessness.

Thought, if you hadn't seen this yet, this may help you grab some more stats on child homelessness.



Gerald Britt Author Profile Page:


Thanks, I'll check out the link as soon as I finish this post.

Greg, I want to thank you for your generosity. No matter the amount, organizations like CDM couldn't exist without them.

But unfortunately there's not enough individual givers, no matter the amount to go around. There are too many causes, and too little money.

The government is us. That being so, it is us paying for roads, bridges, public safety and providing safety nets for some of us who don't do so well.

Central Dallas Ministries' permanaent supportive housing programs that take the homeless off the streets and provide them with shelter and case management, or our program to assist aid children who age out of foster care, or our job training program that trains people for jobs that pay living wages, or summer nutrition program, or even our food pantry couldn't exist on individual or even foundation grants alone. The large portion of that funding comes from the government.

Individual, unrestricted giving helps us maximize the use of those federal dollars. So while I really do understand the 'screw the government' sentiment (you must have seen Legends of the Fall), those monies rightly used are strengthened by generous individual givving. But its a mistake to believe that individual gifts can replace that money.

Its not a matter of either/or, it really is both/and!

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