Every Child Deserves the Right to Housing
Rep. Waters introduces resolution on children's right to housing
Press Type: Press Release Associated Program: Housing
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 25, 2009 - Today the Chair of the House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity, Maxine Waters, introduced a House Resolution 582 supporting the right to housing for all children together with their families.
The resolution recognizes that as Americans, we believe our children shouldn't be denied the right to be housed together with their families based on what neighborhood you live in, or how much money you make. As President Obama stated in a press conference on March 24, "it is not acceptable for children and families to be without a roof over their heads in a country as wealthy as ours." The resolution affirms that housing for children is not just a value we share as Americans, it is a basic human right.
But, as recent reports have noted, the crisis of child homelessness is increasing, with an estimated 1.5 million children facing homelessnessthis year. In its March 2008 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has estimated that 30 percent of homeless persons in families are unsheltered, due to lack to of shelter capacity for families in communities across the country.
"It's important that Congress acknowledge the fundamental right of children to adequate housing. Nearly 200,000 children and youth are homeless each night in America. It is appalling and unacceptable that so many children are living on the streets without shelter. The dangers of not having safe and adequate housing are especially harmful to children's health and development," said Congresswoman Waters.
The resolution comes as a result of persistent advocacy by a number of national and local organizations, including the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) at the federal level, and in Los Angeles, Beyond Shelter, the LA Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness, and University of Southern California Professor Ralph Fertig.
Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director of NLCHP, stated: "We thank Rep. Waters for her attention to the housing needs of America's most vulnerable families. The lack of affordable, permanent housing is the primary cause of family homelessness. No child should have to be homeless in America. No family should have to choose between paying the rent and putting food on the table. And no family should have to give up their children to the state simply because they are homeless." As noted in the resolution, homeless families in the streets or in shelters risk having their childrentaken away from them by child protective services. "For a country that proclaims family values, we fail to value families," she added.
Eric Tars, Human Rights and Children & Youth Staff Attorney at NLCHP, said: "Rather than preventing homelessness for a family, which the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) concluded costs one-sixth as much as intervening once the family has become homeless, our country persists in removing children from homeless families and putting them in foster care. Extensive studies have documented irreparable psychological harm to children removed from their parents, resulting in higher rates of illness, mental illness, delinquency, and crime. Our values as Americans also reflect a good value for tight budgets - so it's time to do the right thing and guarantee the right to housing for these families."
The primary cause of homelessness in the United States is a lack of affordable housing; 13.7 million Americans pay over 50% of their income on rent or live in substandard housing, putting them at high risk for homelessness.
Programs such as the Family Unification Program (FUP) which provide vouchers to keep families together not only produced documented savings (compared to the cost of foster placement) but also resulted in an almost 90% retention rate among homeless families.
"We look forward to working with Rep. Waters to pass this resolution stating America's values," concluded Foscarinis, "And then to make those values real by ensuring housing is a right for all of America's children."
Click here for a copy of the resolution.
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