So many families are living on the edge of poverty, that one little setback can push them into the abyss of homelessness.
A new report released Monday shows that about one in 30 American children was homeless at some point last year. That's about 2.5 million kids, and an 8 percent increase to "an historic high," according to the study from the National Center on Family Homelesness. Just over half are younger than six years old.
"It is pretty alarming," said center director Carmela DeCandia, who co-authored the report. "Poverty is really the driver."
About 20 percent of American kids live below the poverty line, where even a small financial setback can have catastrophic consequences for a family. Five years into the economic recovery, the poorest Americans have actually lost ground, a function of stagnant wages for the working poor and rising rents.
Kids are often the collateral damage. Chronically hungry, tired and stressed, up to 40 percent of those old enough to attend school exhibit mental health issues, and they often struggle academically.