More than one-third of Americans who use shelters annually are parents and their children

In 2011, that added up to more than 500,000 people. Since 2007, family homelessness has increased by more than 13 percent. Indeed, there is a growing prevalence of child and family homelessness across America.

While it is important to track the federal, state and local policies that impact homelessness, we can't forget about getting involved on a personal level with the growing numbers of families that are struggling since the Great Recession.

You can visit a local shelter, meet a homeless family and see first hand the damage poverty is doing to young mothers and children. Then, become a big brother or sister, a role model for these young families to help them dream again. You are meeting an immediate need while also helping to stem generational poverty.

You can also contact your local department of social services, United Way, or religious organization to find out where the need is in your community. Also, speak with the homeless liaison at your local school to see what needs they have identified in your neighborhood. There are many ways that you (and your children) can help families right in your community. Here are a few other ideas.

4. From Dr. Deborah Frank, founder and principal investigator, Children's HealthWatch: “Fund the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) at the maximum authorized level”

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides low-income households with assistance in paying their utility bills - particularly those that must spend higher proportions of their income on home energy.

To be eligible for LIHEAP, families must have incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level - less than $35,000 annually for a family of four

When Children's HealthWatch compared children in families that do and do not receive LIHEAP assistance - after controlling for participation in SNAP and WIC - we found that children in families that received LIHEAP were less likely to be at risk of growth problems, more likely to have healthier weights for their age and less likely to be hospitalized when seeking care for acute medical problems.Read more