Robert Coles's incisive foreword heralds much of the feeling evoked here: shock, anger, disgust. Concentrating mostly on N.Y.C. (which has the largest need and the largest program for families), free-lancer Berck presents the results of 30+ interviews with children in highly effective sound-bites. Articulate, heartfelt first-person narration alternates with statistics, occasional poems created in workshops for the homeless, and historical overview: Riis, gentrification, the Depression; ""safety nets"" that may not work; reasons for homelessness that most readers without direct contact won't have imagined; and desperate measures taken to avoid it (11 people squashing together in two rooms). Of the ""accommodations"" provided--hotels (a 15th-story walk-up; blood on the sheets), barracks (arbitrary lights-out)--all are horrifying; with social services offered, family-style shelters, even with their oppressively strict rules, present the most hope. Infuriating facts (federal laws that prohibit the exorbitant sums spent on hotels from going instead to permanent housing) punctuate the outrage of such aptly titled chapters as ""School on the Fly,"" in which a teen travels an hour to take siblings to their school before going to his own. Sections on health or ""Dreams and Visions"" make painfully clear how quickly despair sets in. In the words of one youngster, ""Children live/ In darkness and with secrets/ When wanting to talk,/ Sometimes they're speechless."" A powerful plea that deserves a hearing. Notes; adult-oriented bibliography. Photos not seen.