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Homelessness data misleading

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Thanks for covering homelessness ("Fewer North Carolinians homeless in 2014, says U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development," Nov. 3). But the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's data is misleading.

More than a million children will sleep tonight with a roof over their heads, but it's not their roof. They endure the same horrors facing homeless adults. A 17-year-old Michigan boy was raped by the person he stayed with. A 13-year-old Ohio girl was sexually trafficked by the man who promised her housing. But HUD's definition of "homeless" excludes them. HUD's counts largely ignore them too, focusing instead on shelters, bus stations, parks, and other places homeless youth and families are less likely to go.

The result: HUD's numbers don't add up. While HUD reports that family homelessness dropped nationwide during recent years, U.S. Education Department data released earlier this year showed an 18 percent increase in homeless K–12 students from school years 2010-2011 to 2012-2013.

Bipartisan legislation – the Homeless Children and Youth Act – would force straight answers from HUD. Urge your congressional representatives to support it, so we can have an honest conversation about child, youth, and family homelessness.

Bruce Lesley, Maryland

The writer is president of First Focus Campaign for Children.

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