‘They’re invisible’: A record number of students are experiencing homelessness, new federal data say

There are more public-school students than ever who don’t have a home to shelter them every night, and for many, school is their only safety net, advocates say.
The number of public-school students who experienced homelessness at some point in the past three school years rose from 1.3 million in the 2015-2016 school year to 1.5 million in the 2017-2018 school year, according to new federal government data, a 15% increase.
Between the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years alone, the number of students experiencing homelessness increased 11%, found a report by the National Center for Homeless Education, which is funded by the Education Department.
These 1.5 million students experiencing homelessness represent a record high, according to the national nonprofit SchoolHouse Connection, which advocates for children and youth experiencing homelessness.
“There is a population of children who face tremendous barriers to not just their basic needs, but to the supports that they need to be successful later in life,” Barbara Duffield, the executive director of SchoolHouse Connection, told MarketWatch. “They’re invisible — you have to look for them, you have to know the questions to ask, you have to know the places to go.”
Sixteen states’ homeless student populations increased by at least 10% over the three years studied, and eight states saw an increase of 20% or more. Just five states experienced decreases of 10% or more during that period, according to the report.
What’s more, the number of students living in unsheltered locations — such as abandoned buildings, cars and other places not fit for human habitation — shot up 137% over the three school years studied, according to the report. (Unsheltered students made up only 7% of the 2017-2018 homeless student population, the report said, but the recent surge “represents the largest increase in a single type of housing used by students since data has been collected.”)
Use of motels and hotels among students experiencing homelessness rose 24% over the three-year period, and the number of students who had “doubled up” with friends or relatives due to economic hardship or housing loss rose 13%. The number of students in shelters, meanwhile, dropped 2%.
As for the breakdown of students’ primary nighttime residence during the most recent school year studied, 74% were in a doubled-up situation, 12% were in shelters, 7% were in motels or hotels and another 7% were unsheltered.
Schools are “essentially the only safety net” for many of these children, Duffield said — providing them with basic needs like food and shelter, however temporary, and adults paying attention to them. Schools can also offer these kids normalcy during a time of great trauma and upheaval, she added, with teachers and classrooms lending some degree of consistency and stability.
Homelessness has an impact on academic achievement over and above the effects of poverty alone, Duffield said. The government data found that “economically disadvantaged students outscore homeless students by approximately 10 percentage points in most subjects and grades” during the most recent school year studied. Previous research has similarly shown that formerly homeless students score lower on standardized tests than their low-income counterparts who haven’t experienced housing insecurity.
The present government report also found that four-year graduation rates among students experiencing homelessness ranged across states from 44% to 87%. Among states that submitted five-year graduation rates, figures ranged from 41% to 83%.
“If you compare the graduation rates or the proficiency rates of children who are economically disadvantaged but have stability in their housing to children experiencing homelessness, the latter fare much worse,” Duffield said.
Public schools play an important role in identifying and serving students experiencing homelessness, Duffield added.
‘They’re invisible’: A record number of students are experiencing homelessness, new federal data say ‘They’re invisible’: A record number of students are experiencing homelessness, new federal data say Reviewed by CUZZ BLUE on February 03, 2020 Rating: 5

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