Another face of the U.S. recession: homeless children

Fri Dec 23, 2011 4:58pm EST
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By Tom Brown

MIAMI (Reuters) - As her mother sat in a homeless shelter in downtown Miami, talking about her economic struggles and loss of faith in the U.S. political system, 3-year-old Aeisha Touray blurted out what sounded like a new slogan for the Occupy Wall Street protest movement.

"How dare you!" the girl said abruptly as she nudged a toy car across a conference room table at the Chapman Partnership shelter in Miami's tough and predominantly black Overtown neighborhood.

There was no telling what Aeisha was thinking as her 32-year-old mother, Nairkahe Touray, spoke of how she burned through her savings and wound up living in a car with five of her eight children earlier this year.

But how dare you indeed? How does anyone explain to kids like Aeisha and countless others how they wound up homeless in the world's richest nation?

In a report issued earlier this month, the National Center on Family Homelessness, based in Needham, Massachusetts, said 1.6 million children were living on the streets of the United States last year or in shelters, motels and doubled-up with other families.

That marked a 38 percent jump in child homelessness since 2007 and Ellen Bassuk, the center's president, attributes the increase to fallout from the U.S. recession and a surge in the number of extremely poor households headed by women.

Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau provided a sobering backdrop. Based on new or experimental methodology aimed at providing a fuller picture of poverty, the data showed that about 48 percent of Americans are living in poverty or on low incomes.

Under the bureau's so-called Supplemental Poverty Measure for 2010, issued last month, the poverty level for a family of four was set at income anywhere below $24,343 per year.   Continued...

<p>Nairkahe Touray (C) speaks with Reuters where she lives with her five children at the Chapman Partnership homeless shelter in Miamii, Florida, December 19, 2011. At left is Aeisha, 3, and at right is Yesuf, 11-months old. REUTERS/Joe Skipper</p>