(RNN) - A recent study found that 1.6 million children in the United States are homeless - a 38 percent increase since the start of the current economic recession in 2007.
"There are more homeless children today than after the natural disasters of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which caused historic levels of homelessness in 2006," said Ellen L. Bassuk, president of the National Center on Family Homelessness, in a news release.
According to the report, after the 2005 hurricanes 1 in every 50 - or 1.5 million children - found themselves homeless. In 2007, the number fell to 1.2 million, but the effects of the recession have been a "man-made disaster for vulnerable children," according to Bassuk.
In examining the extent of child homelessness, at-risk populations and the general well being of children, the Center rated each state to find the best and worst places for child homelessness.
The highest score came from Vermont, which showed improvement during the past four years. Alabama scored the lowest. The state has received steadily lower scores since 2006.
Covenant House runs a shelter for homeless people ages 16 to 24 in the state ranked 35th overall, New York. It also runs 20 more shelters throughout the U.S., Central America and Canada.
"We are seeing more kids whose families have just imploded," said Tom Manning, vice president of public relations and marketing for Covenant House. "Here in New York, we have 300 kids a night in the shelter."
According to Manning, there has been such an increase in the number of youth looking for shelter that it was forced to create a waiting list.
"I don't think people realize the extent of the problem," Manning said.
In slightly better ranked No. 29 North Carolina, the Raleigh Rescue Mission partners with organizations to reach the city's homeless population through programs and shelters, including a child development center.
"We want to prevent homeless families," said Richard Fitzgerald, director of fundraising and agency relations for RRM.
The Mission has seen an increase in people seeking out its services at emergency shelters since the economic recession hit in late 2007.
According to Fitzgerald, child homelessness is specifically important because parents are often unable to find jobs while worrying about who will watch their children while they are away.
The Covenant House also offers long-term programs to keep homeless youth from becoming homeless adults. They offer job training and GED classes on-site, as well as a transitional housing program that allows youths to live at apartments at the Covenant House for up to 18 months while they work to get themselves on their feet.
"With some help, it's amazing to see what they can put behind them," Manning said. "These are the lives of good kids who just haven't had support."
The National Center of Family Homelessness believes the key to solving the problem is stopping cuts to federal and state programs that help homeless children and families.
"Deeper cuts will only create more homelessness that will cost us more to fix in the long run," Bassuk said. "We can take specific action now in areas of housing, child care, education, domestic violence, and employment and training to stabilize vulnerable families and prevent child homelessness."
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