Groups that work with the homeless in the Seattle area are seeing an increase in the number of children who don't have permanent shelter.
The Union Gospel Mission's Terry Pallas says when his teams go to homeless camps, "they stumble up on a family weekly."
Right now, he says the Mission is working to place two families, just discovered over the weekend.
Families can slip into homelessness for a variety of reasons such as losing a job or getting priced out of housing. Sometimes drug abuse or domestic violence plays a role.
He says many families first take shelter in cars or RVs, hoping that locked doors will at least keep their children safe.
"And they're thinking, a lot of times, this is temporary," Pallas said. "I may be able to get back on my feet. I may be able to provide for my kids."
But for many, it is not a short stay.
Pallas says Seattle Schools records indicate there are over 4,000 homeless children in the city, and that just includes children who are enrolled in school.
There are families who hesitate to reach out for help, because they're concerned about the stigma of homelessness or worried their children will be taken away.
Although Child Protective Services is called in if a child is in danger, children are not automatically taken away from parents, according to Pallas.
He says the Union Gospel Mission can usually get families into temporary housing quickly, but it can take six months to a year to find them permanent homes.
Until there are enough resources for homeless families, he says his crews will continue to find kids in RVs, in tents, and in unsafe conditions.
He tells a story that his friend shared, while visiting a homeless camp: "And all of the sudden he sees this little tiny foot press up against the tent and he realized that a small child was inside."
"It absolutely crushes your heart," Pallas said, shaking his head.
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