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Lawmakers advanced a bill Tuesday to look at the causes of homeless for children, and to study how best to address it.

The House Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee unanimously endorsed HB283, and sent it to the full House for consideration.

Its sponsor, Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy, said it would ask a current state task force studying intergenerational poverty also to address homelessness among children. The bill also would allow using current cash assistance programs for the poor specifically to avoid homelessness for children.

Spendlove said more than 600 children in the state are currently homeless, and perhaps 3,000 a year experience some homelessness. He said such children are twice as likely to have learning disabilities, and three times as likely to have emotional disturbances.

He said half of homeless children are held back at least one grade in school, and 22 percent are held back multiple grades.

"I'm not really sure we know the depths of the trauma that homelessness brings to so many people," homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson said.

Bill Tibbitts, with the Coalition of Religious Communities, said the state has plenty of data about how many children are homeless, but little about how they and their families end up there — and how to prevent it.

He said the bill would allow studying that, and "realigning our resources to address it."

Bill Cosgrove, representing the American Academy of Pediatrics, said,"Homelessness is one of the hardest hits that a child could undertake. Homelessness in those first few vulnerable years can easily drive a child off cliffs."

He added, "Homelessness leads to helplessness and leads to hopelessness. Once a family is hopeless, it's really hard to get them back on course."