WASHINGTON — Fully 1.6 million children in the United States -- one in 45 kids -- were homeless last year, living in shelters, cars, abandoned buildings and parks, a study released Monday found.

With youth homelessness surging 28 percent since 2007 amid tough economic times, the National Center on Family Homelessness called its study a "call to action for all of us to address child homelessness before we lose another generation."

The situation is grim nationally, but even worse in many states.

Half of all US homeless kids live in six US states, and among the worst hit of all were Georgia, Alabama and California, the most populous US state.

Of the children affected, 42 percent were under the age of six, and a third of them were living with single mothers with chronic illnesses, the study found.

Homeless children were more likely than others to suffer from hunger, educational problems, stress and illness among other challenges, it said.

Photo credit: Mike Blyth