Children in homeless shelters mostly young, says new report

Last year, more than 9,000 homeless children spent time in Pennsylvania shelters. Almost 60 percent were younger than five.

These numbers come from a new report published by the People’s Emergency Center (PEC), a West Philadelphia non-profit.

Staci Perlman, a visiting scholar at PEC and an associate professor at the University of Delaware noted that while 5 percent of kids in Pennsylvania are under the age of one, they represented 12 percent of children who spent time in emergency and transitional housing in 2012.

“That means,” said Perlman, “that some of our youngest citizens are spending at least some portion of their earliest and arguably most important developmental years without stable housing.”

Ages of children in temporary housing also varied across regions.

“I thinking increasingly children are being recognized as having their own sets of needs,” said Perlman.

Shelter operators, she believes, are becoming more strategic about how to work with the children who arrive with their parents and how to support their developmental challenges.

Perlman acknowledges these figures cover only a subset of homeless children. Older kids and teens in particular are more likely to couchsurf between homes of friends and family rather than stay in a shelter.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal