News Releases

HEAD START: Murray Highlights Major Increase in Homeless Students Enrolled in Head Start; Urges Colleagues to Continue Investing in this Critical Program

Apr 05 2011

Murray’s letter follows Republican proposal in H.R.1 to slash Head Start by 20%, which would eliminate the program for an estimated 218,000 children across the country

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) sent a letter to her colleagues in the Senate to highlight a recent report showing a dramatic increase in the number of homeless students in Head Start and Early Head Start. The Office of Head Start estimates that since 2008, the number of homeless children enrolled in these programs has increased by 40%, to 40,423. Murray urged her colleagues to protect this critical investment that provides support for so many of our nation’s most vulnerable children.

“Since the beginning of the recession in 2008, there has been an estimated 40 percent increase in the number of homeless children enrolled in Head Start and Early Head Start programs,” Senator Murray wrote in her letter to Senate colleagues. I hope you find this information useful as the Senate continues to debate funding levels for future appropriations bills, and I urge you to support critical investments like Head Start that support our nation’s most at-risk children.”

See State-by-state data on increases in homeless. (Washington state data broken down by region available upon request.)

The full text of Senator Murray’s letter follows:

April 5, 2011

Dear Colleague:

I am writing to you to draw your attention to an important matter that has recently come to my attention – since the beginning of the recession in 2008, there has been an estimated 40 percent increase in the number of homeless children enrolled in Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Startling data recently released from the Office of Head Start shows that 40,423 homeless children are currently enrolled in Head Start programs across our country. We know many more young children experience homelessness, and unfortunately, many children who are eligible are not able to benefit from Head Start services due to current funding levels.

Last year, 52 percent of all children living in homeless shelters funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development were under the age of 6. According to research compiled by the Family Housing Fund, homeless families and children face challenges that go beyond those of other low-income families. Homeless families often have little access to health and dental care, leading to lower vaccination rates and physical health issues, and they often lack access to adequate nutrition. Furthermore, homeless preschool children are more likely to experience developmental delays as well as social and behavioral problems, which make them less prepared to enter kindergarten than their peers. Homeless children experience high levels of stress, trauma, and mobility, leading to an increased incidence of mental health disorders. And despite all the serious challenges they face, homeless preschoolers are actually less likely than their housed peers to receive important services to help them overcome these challenges.

Head Start and Early Head Start programs provide crucial stability for homeless children, while providing them with the resources needed to improve their situation. Families involved in Head Start are often able to move into housing more quickly, and in the meantime, children are in a nurturing environment, receiving the nutrition, education, and health interventions they need to be prepared to succeed in kindergarten.

Attached, please find information about the number and percentage of homeless children being served by Head Start programs in your state. I hope you find this information useful as the Senate continues to debate funding levels for future appropriations bills, and I urge you to support critical investments like Head Start that support our nation’s most at-risk children. 

Sincerely, 

Patty Murray
United States Senator