Analysis of recently released federal data shows that the number of homeless children and youth identified in public schools has increased for the second year in a row, and by 41% over the past two school years. - First Focus / NAEHCY
Over two hundred people gathered in Salem, Oregon on June 24th of this year for the Interfaith Summit on Homeless Children, Youth and Families. The summit was convened to bring together religious leaders, government officials, and educators to talk about ways that together we could address the growing numbers of homeless children experiencing homelessness while attending our public schools.
Churches and other faith communities present shared information on the enormous faith-based efforts under way currently in Oregon to help homeless families and their children. It was an opportunity to share information on programs that work and that might be replicated. There is a general consensus that the faith community must do more in terms of direct service and advocacy.
Everyone present understood, however, that the faith community doesn't have the financial resources to end homelessness in Oregon (or nationwide for that matter). Homelessness is for the most part a result of people living in poverty - and poverty in America is in large part a result of bad economic policies that benefit the wealthiest Americans while cutting off opportunities for everyone else. That is why it is essential for Congress to end the tax cuts provided by President Bush and Congress to the wealthiest Americans.
President Obama has worked hard to change the economic landscape of our country - pushing an aggressive agenda of progressive policies not seen since FDR - but it is vital that religious leaders continue to impress on the president that he must keep his campaign promise to cut poverty by 50% over the course of ten years. Visit the Half in Ten Campaign and Fighting Poverty With Faith to learn more about these efforts.
In the meantime, it is essential that we provide additional resources to public schools to address the growing crisis of homeless students.
First Focus and the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth have just released a new issue brief that explains the current crisis we face nationally and steps the federal government must take immediately to make sure that every child who is homeless has the best education possible. As President Obama has said, a strong public education is the best anti-poverty strategy.
Please share this information with people in your churches, with your e-mail lists, on Facebook and blogs.