New study on homeless students finds repeat homelessness common

After surveying hundreds of current and formerly homeless students, homeless youth liaisons, and federally-mandated state coordinators who work with them at school, researchers found that over 75% of young people surveyed experienced homelessness more than once.

This new report,”Hidden in Plain Sight: Homeless Students in America’s Public Schools“, written by Civic Enterprises with Hart Research Associates and released Monday by the GradNation campaign, seeks to shed light on the student homelessness epidemic and offer educators and policymakers information on how best to combat this growing issue.

Two-thirds of those surveyed said they were uncomfortable speaking with school officials about their housing situation. Fifty percent said they had slept in a car, park, abandoned building, or other public place while homeless. While 60% of homeless students interviewed said they were never connected with an organization for support, 87% of those who were connected to such organizations found the help valuable.

Almost 90% of liaisons spend half or less of their time working on their responsibilities with homeless students, and disclose frustrating challenges such as lack of funding, time, awareness and resources.

Students surveyed reported a need for caring adults in the school system, opportunities to connect with their classmates, and concrete supports that include housing, food, clothing, transportation, and academic programming. Liaisons called for public awareness of the issue, and training for all school staff to help support homeless students. In terms of administrative action, the report recommends policymakers:

1) Work to ensure that the ESSA amendments on identifying and serving homeless students in the McKinney-Vento Act and Title I part A are fully implemented in states, schools and districts.

2) Focus on outreach efforts to inform homeless students and families of their rights and raise community awareness.

3) Ensure that schools have the resources to actively engage with homeless students to help them stay in school.

4) Build connections between community organizations and schools and connect homeless students to those outside supports.

5) Set community and national goals around outcomes and graduation rates for homeless students and use data to drive progress.

6) Increase efforts to provide more affordable housing.

The report also reveals the discrepancies between homeless student high school graduation rates and the average rates for all students. Homeless students are one of the lowest graduating populations in the nation, with 42% of young people surveyed having dropped out of school at least once. Currently, only Colorado, Kansas, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming release graduation records for homeless students, and their numbers lag far behind even other low-income students. Beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will require all states and school districts to report high school graduation rates for homeless students for the first time.

Nationwide, more than 1.3 million public school students were identified as homeless in 2013-14.

Read the whole report here.

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