The number of children that are homeless in the United States has drastically increased in recent years to a record-high level, which is equivalent ot about one child per 30 American children.
The shocking figure was revealed by a comprehensive report entitled America's Youngest Outcasts, which was issued by the National Center on Family Homelessness.
The report blames a number of factors for the high number of homeless children, including high poverty rates, the absence of low-cost housing and prevalent domestic violence.
Within 2013, the National Center on Family Homelessness calculated that almost 2.5 million children in the United States were homeless. The figure is based on the latest count of the Education Department of 1.3 million children that are homeless that study in public schools, with additional estimates of homeless children in the preschool level that are not monitored by the agency.
The report states that homeless children increased by 8 percent in the United States from 2012 to 2013, adding that the phenomenon could lead to devastating effects on the social, emotional and education development of children, along with on the health, employment opportunities and child-rearing abilities of parents.
According to the director of the agency, Carmela DeCandia, the United States government has made good progress in the reduction of homelessness within war veterans and adults. However, such attention and resources have not been as focused on helping homeless families with children.
"As a society, we're going to pay a high price, in human and economic terms," DeCandia said.
America's Youngest Outcasts includes a composite index that ranked the country's states according to the severity of child homelessness and the risk of children being pulled into the situation, the ongoing efforts to fight the issue and the overall status of the well-being of children.
The best-performing state in the composite index is Minnesota, followed by Nebraska, Massachusetts, Iowa and New Jersey.
Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Hawaii and Maine round out the top ten,
The worst-performing state in the index, however, is Alabama, followed by Mississippi, California, Arkansas and New Mexico.
Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Tennessee make up the rest of the bottom ten states in the composite index.
According to the report, the solution to the issue will begin with the agreement that children that live in doubled-up attics and basements should be considered homeless and should be helped. The next step will then be to make sure that children and families have access to an adequate supply of low-cost and safe housing, along with critical support services such as employment opportunities for parents and health services for the families.
"If we continue to look away, this problem will grow worse, and the long-term costs to our society will dwarf the costs of making this issue a priority now," the report concludes [PDF].