An estimated 7,433 Tarrant County children under the age of six are homeless – living in shelters, weekly motels and even on the streets, and homeless advocates are sounding an alarm.
At a meeting of the Fort Worth Advisory Commission for Ending Homelessness Wednesday, one expert said the problem is the worst she has seen in 20 years of working on the issue.
“It’s very sad,” said Carol Klocek, chief executive officer of the Center for Transforming Lives, a nonprofit formerly known as the YWCA.
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She said homeless children -- those living in "unstable" temporary homes -- are a hidden side effect of the booming economy.
Housing prices are rising too fast for single mothers working in low-income jobs, Klocek said.
“A one-bedroom apartment in Tarrant County can run you almost $1000 a month,” she said.
For a mother making $9 per hour, she said, that’s only about $1,500 per month.
“You can't keep a roof over your head once you have more than 2 children even working full-time,” she said.
Rebecca Smith, the mother of a three-year-old daughter and 17-month-old son, has lived at the Salvation Army on Lancaster Avenue for about nine months.
"I'm definitely lucky to be here,” she said. “There's not enough room in the shelters."
Alexandria Phillips, a Marine veteran, was homeless and lived in the Salvation Army until about a year ago.
“I did a 180,” she said.
With government help, Phillips and her 17-month-old son Anthony are now living in an apartment.
"I really wanted a change and God just guided me through and here I am,” she said.
Homeless advocates are trying to step up their efforts but face a challenge -- especially at a time federal housing assistance is drying up, they say.
The problem is not just in Tarrant County but statewide.
Census numbers show Texas has 2.3 million children under the age of six.
Of them, nearly 97,000 are homeless, according to a 2014 study.