Nevada’s children going homeless

The worsening problem of child homelessness is hitting Nevada hard, according to a new report released Tuesday.

The report by the National Center on Family Homelessness gave Connecticut the best ranking for dealing with the issue while Texas was at the bottom. Nevada was ranked 45th among the states.

About 10,434 children are homeless in Nevada, the report said. Like most states, Nevada has inadequate plans to address the problem, it said.

Nationwide, one of every 50 children experiences homelessness, the report said.

“These kids are the innocent victims, yet it seems somehow or other they get left out,” said Dr. Ellen Bassuk, the center’s president.

The report analyzed data from 2005-2006. It estimated that 1.5 million children nationwide experienced homelessness at least once that year, and said the problem is surely worse now because of the foreclosures and job losses of the deepening recession.

The report’s overall state rankings reflect performance in four areas: child homelessness per capita, child well-being, risk for child homelessness, and state policy and planning.

The top five states were Connecticut, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Rhode Island and North Dakota. At the bottom were Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, New Mexico, Nevada and Louisiana.

Myra Berkovits, Clark County School District’s coordinator for the federal Title 1 Homeless Outreach Program for Education, disputed the report’s findings, particularly its dismal assessment of Nevada’s efforts to address child homelessness.

“I don’t care what the report says; I know we are doing a good job,” Berkovits said. “Our homeless children are taken care of.”

HOPE provides homeless children with free breakfasts, lunches, backpacks, school supplies and other services.

As of Friday, the district classified 5,020 students as homeless.

Berkovits criticized the report for using out-of-date information and for penalizing states that do a better job identifying homeless children, which leads to higher counts.

“We do a good job of identifying homeless children so we can help them,” she said.

Terry Lindemann, director of Family Promise of Las Vegas, a nonprofit group that helps homeless families, said, “There aren’t enough safety nets” for children in Nevada.

“Unfortunately, Nevada is not able to provide many of the services we need for children because of our economy,” she said.

Lindemann hopes “the federal (stimulus) dollars heading our way” will help. Local governments are set to receive federal money for homeless prevention. About $2.6 million is earmarked for Clark County, $2.1 million for Las Vegas and $677,000 for North Las Vegas.

The report said homeless children are more likely than other children to experience hunger, suffer chronic health problems, repeat a grade in school and drop out of high school.

It offered 19 recommendations for government action, including beefed-up federal spending on low-income housing, aid to struggling renters and homeowners, and investment in child care for homeless children.

The report urged states to place homeless families into permanent housing rather than into motels.

Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at lcurtis@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285.The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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