One million schoolchildren are homeless in America. That’s an intolerable number, and it’s likely to rise unless we do something about it.

For homeless school-age children — with precarious living arrangements and the daily struggles to find food and shelter — attending school is an uphill battle. At least one-fifth do not attend school at all. Often, there is no transportation from shelters to school.

And for those homeless students who do attend, they have more academic problems, are suspended twice as often, and are more likely to repeat a grade. Their math and reading scores are 16 percent lower, and only one in four graduates from high school.

We are punishing these school-age kids for the sins of our economic and social policies.

Starting with President Reagan, the federal government has made one cut after another in the social safety net. President Clinton overturned our welfare policies. And Presidents Bush father and son both were unfriendly to the poor.

Today’s hard times have only made things worse. The recession, brought on by reckless Wall Street gambling, has brought on an epidemic of foreclosures and layoffs.

With foreclosures and layoffs particularly high in communities of color, the black and Latino middle class are joining the burgeoning ranks of the homeless. In fact, children of color now constitute a majority of the homeless.

In 1996, 66 percent of homeless parents with children under 18 were white, 15 percent were black, 14 percent Hispanic, 1 percent Native American and 4 percent other. But in 2006, 38 percent of homeless parents were white, 47 percent were black, 13 percent were Hispanic, 2 percent were Native American, with 1 percent other. (All statistics in this article come from the National Center on Family Homelessness.)

The effects of homelessness on children are crippling.

Children who are homeless are in bad health twice as often as other children, and four times as often as children with a family annual income of more than $35,000. They are four times as likely to have asthma, and they go hungry twice as often as other children.

Homeless children have delayed development at a rate four times the national average. More than one-fifth of homeless children between 3 and 6 years have emotional problems that require professional attention.

We can eliminate childhood homelessness if we have the will.

The federal government should invest $10 billion over two years to building 100,000 rental homes, funding 400,000 new housing vouchers for $3.6 billion, and investing $3 billion for child care vouchers for homeless children.

Meanwhile, states and localities can make homelessness a priority, place families into permanent housing rather than motels and prevent the removal of children into foster care solely because of homelessness.

Critics of “big government” will say that America can’t afford such an expense in a recession, that we simply don’t have the money. But we have the money, somehow, to bail out Wall Street to the tune of trillions of dollars. We have the money, somehow, to wage two wars that are draining trillions more from our Treasury.

Critics of social spending on homelessness also believe that poverty is someone else’s problem, the result of laziness, immorality or bad life choices. But the United States has never had enough good-paying jobs for all who need them. Besides, what choice does a child have about her family’s income level?

In our Great Recession, many people are a paycheck, a mortgage payment or a hospital bill away from homelessness, a fate that is especially cruel to their children. It should not be too much to guarantee our nation’s kids a roof over their heads.

David A. Love is a writer and human rights advocate based in Philadelphia. His blog is He can be reached at

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A huge win, it's also just a hit on the pause button. Here's some context and ideas about paths forward.

The reach of this story extends from the lowliest working stiff to the highest court in the land.

White supremacist posters on campuses play on ignorance and fear within the very institutions that should be our...

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

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