Thirty-five states saw an increase in homeless students between 2012 and 2014, according to new information released by the US Department of Education. The Garden State joined 21 other States which saw growth in student homelessness 10 percent or more.
Public schools reported 1,263,323 children and youth, preK-12, who were identified as experiencing homelessness, and enrolled in school at some point in the 2014—2015 school year. This is a 3.5% increase over three years, and a 12% increase over four years, and a 34% increase since the recession ended in the summer of 2009. The number of unaccompanied homeless youth — those who experience homelessness apart from their families — also increased 21 percent over three years, reaching approximately 95,032 students.
The Twenty-one states which experienced an increase in homeless student population of more than 10 percent, included: Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.
The report, “Federal Data Summary School Years 2012-13 to 2014-15: Education for Homeless Children and Youth” further found that:
- Thirty-five states reported an increase in their homeless student populations between 2012 and 2014. Twenty-one states experienced growth of 10% or more, while only five states experienced a reduction of 10% or more.
- Homelessness among unaccompanied homeless youth (youth experiencing homelessness on their own, apart from their families) saw the most marked increase, increasing by 21 percent over three years, to reach 95,032 students.
- The grade with the largest number of students experiencing homelessness was kindergarten. Forty-seven percent of all students identified as homeless and enrolled in school were elementary-age or younger.
- Federal per-pupil spending on students experiencing homelessness declined by $17.78 since the end of the recession and by $6.07 between fiscal years 2012 and 2015. Overall federal funding to support students experiencing homelessness remained at roughly the same level between fiscal years 2012 and 2015.
- States provided an average per pupil rate of $50.08 in federal funding to school districts for the additional supports needed by homeless students.
The majority of students experiencing homelessness do not live in shelters. Over a third, 76 percent were staying with other people temporarily, due to lack of alternatives, upon initial identification by schools. Another 7 percent were staying in motels when they were identified. These living situations are precarious, crowded, unstable, and often unsafe, leading to high rates of mobility. The use of hotels and motels grew, seeing an increase in use of nearly 19 percent over three years. The ED data do not include homeless infants and toddlers, young children who are not enrolled in public preschool programs, and homeless children and youth who were not identified by school officials or enrolled in school
In addition to the new data above, research has shown that homelessness impacts children in a multitude of ways:
- Attendance and graduation rates dip. Homeless students transfer schools often, are more likely to miss school, and 87 percent more likely than their peers to leave school before graduation.
- Academic success is compromised. Academic achievement in elementary school is slowed during periods of homelessness and housing instability. The achievement gaps between homeless and low-income elementary students tend to persist, and may even worsen, over time.
- Young children suffer greatly. A 2015 study found that the younger and longer a child experiences homelessness, the greater the cumulative toll of negative health outcomes, which can have lifelong effects on the child, the family, and the community.
- Homeless youth are inherently vulnerable and more exposed to other dangers. Unaccompanied homeless youth are more likely to fall victim to sexual exploitation, including trafficking.
Earlier this year, a ground-breaking report from Civic Enterprises, Hidden in Plain Sight, details the struggles of homeless students in the U.S. and provides insight into how educators, policymakers and community organizations can help more students cope with homelessness, graduate from high school, and have a better shot at adult success. This includes recommendations for implementation of new educational protections for homeless children and youth–the result of amendments to federal law made by the Every Student Succeeds Act that went into effect on October 1, 2016. These amendments place greater emphasis on appropriate staffing and training, pre-school age children, and supports to assist students to graduate from high school and transition to college.
Source: USDE / First Focus Campaign for Children