Wed, 11 Mar 2009 01:35:59 +0000 – Editor's Note: The following piece is from our sister publication, The Wall Street Journal:
By JAMES TARANTOhomelessness Associated Press
"These kids are the innocent victims, yet it seems somehow or other they get left out," said the [National Center on Family Homelessness] president, Dr. Ellen Bassuk. "Why are they America's outcasts?"
The report analyzes data from 2005-2006. It estimates that 1.5 million children experienced homelessness at least once that year, and says the problem is surely worse now because of the foreclosures and job losses of the deepening recession.
"If we could freeze-frame it now, it would be bad enough," said Democratic Sen. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, who wrote a foreward [sic] to the report. "By end of this year, it will be that much worse."
Seriously! The AP link above includes a graphic that breaks down the "living conditions of homeless children." Fifty-six percent of them are "doubled-up," defined as "sharing housing with other persons due to economic hardship." By this definition, the Meathead on "All in the Family" was "homeless."
Another 7% are listed as living in hotels--a category that, in the report itself, also includes motels, trailer parks and camping grounds. We'll give them campgrounds, but when you think of the homeless, are residents of hotels and trailer parks what come to mind?
Twenty-four percent of "homeless" children live in shelters, according to the AP graphic. That would seem to meet a commonsense definition of homelessness--but it turns out the number conflates those who live in two different types of shelters: "emergency" and "transitional." As the report defines the latter:
Transitional housing bridges the gap between emergency shelters and permanent housing--often providing more intensive services and allowing longer lengths of stay than emergency shelters. Transitional housing models arose in the mid-1980s, when communities realized that for some, emergency shelter services were not sufficient to ensure a permanent exit from homelessness. Transitional housing programs often have a specialized focus on particular barriers to stable housing and provide services and supports to address these issues. For example, programs may be designed exclusively for those fleeing domestic violence, struggling with addictions, or working to reunite with children in the foster care system.
The remaining "homeless" children are either "unsheltered" (3%) or "unknown/other" (10%). Among these are children "abandoned in hospitals," "using a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings," and "living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations."
People in most of these categories are plainly homeless--but note how the center slips "substandard housing" in there between abandoned buildings and bus stations. A child should not have to live in substandard housing, and maybe one who does deserves help at the taxpayer's expense. But a lousy home doesn't make you homeless any more than a lousy marriage makes you single.
The AP story is the work of four reporters: David Crary, who gets the byline, plus Linda Stewart Ball in Dallas, Daniel Shea in Little Rock, Ark., and Dionne Walker in Atlanta, who "contributed to this report." Despite all this manpower, it is nothing but a work of stenography. A group whose raison d'tre is homelessness has an obvious interest in exaggerating the extent of the problem. The press's complicity is harder to explain.
To James Taranto's complete column click here.