One in 45 children experience homelessness in America each year.  That's over 1.6 million children.  While homeless, they experience high rates of acute and chronic health problems.  The constant barrage of stressful and traumatic experience also has profound effects on their development and ability to learn. 


Children experiencing homelessness:

  • Are sick four times more often than other children.[1]  They have:

    • Four times as many respiratory infections.

    • Twice as many ear infections.

    • Five times more gastrointestinal problems.

    • Four times more likely to have asthma.

  • Go hungry at twice the rate of other children.1

  • Have high rates of obesity due to nutritional deficiencies.2

  • Have three times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems compared to non-homeless children.3

Experiences of Violence

Violence plays a major role in the lives of homeless children.4

  • By age 12, 83% had been exposed to at least one serious violent event.

  • Almost 25% have witnessed acts of violence within their families.

Developmental Milestones and Academic Performance

Children experiencing homelessness are:

  • Four times more likely to show delayed development.

  • Twice as likely to have learning disabilities as non-homeless children.

For our complete Fact Sheet on Family Homelessness, click here.

[1] The National Center on Family Homelessness. (1999). Homeless Children: America's New Outcasts. Newton, MA.
Schwarz, KB et al. (2007). High prevalence of overweight and obesity in homeless Baltimore children and their caregivers: a pilot study. Clinical Nutrition and Obesity. 9(1): 48; Grant, R. et al. (2007). The health of homeless children.
National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (2005). Facts on Trauma and Homeless Children. Available at
Bassuk, EL et al. (1996). The characteristics and needs of sheltered homeless and low-income housed mothers. Journal of the American Medical Association, 276(8): 640-646.; Bassuk, EL et al. (1997). Homelessness in female-headed families: childhood and adult risk and protective factors. American Journal of Public Health 87(2): 241-248.; Buckner, J. et al (2004). Exposure to violence and low-income children's mental health: Directed, moderated, and mediated relations. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 74(4):413-423.