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Daily Dish: New Data Reveals Increasing Number of Homeless Students in the U.S.

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September 15, 2015 05:17 pm


The release of new federal data reveals that the number of homeless children in public schools has reached a record national total of 1.36 million in the 2013-2014 school year, an 8 percent rise from 2012-2013. The Washington Post article, Number of homeless students in U.S. has doubled since before the recession, explores the implications of this increasing number on the nation’s public schools and the challenges they face to educate the nearly 3 percent of their students who are homeless.

The piece notes how schools struggle to balance the basic needs of these children with their education, explaining that “teachers often find themselves working not only to help children learn but also to clothe them, keep them clean and counsel them through problems — including stress and trauma — that interfere with classroom progress.” Although many schools do receive federal funding to connect these students to support services, the funding has not kept up with the increasing need.

In addition, the article notes that these homeless children “are more likely to be diagnosed with learning disabilities, are more likely to miss school and change schools, are more likely to drop out of school than other children and score lower on standardized tests.”

A disparity in the classification of homelessness between the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) further complicates the ability of these children to receive support. According to an Alliance report, Falling Through the Gaps: Homeless Children and Youth, HUD’s definition of homelessness largely ignores children and instead focuses on single adults living on the streets and in shelters. As a result, homeless students do not have access to the necessary services, including shelter, permanent housing, case management, substance abuse treatment and more.

The Alliance has previously interviewed several students about the life and educational challenges they faced while being homeless. Watch the video by clicking the image below.

To be considered homeless by HUD, a youth or family temporarily staying in a motel or with others can only stay there for fourteen days and must be able to prove the temporary nature of their stay in writing. Under the U.S. Department of Education’s definition, children, youth, and families who have lost their homes and are staying temporarily with others or in motels are considered homeless.

The solution lies in bipartisan legislation currently pending before the U.S. Congress, which aims to close this gap by aligning the two departments’ definition of homelessness. Under this legislation, there are multiple programs that can deem children and families homeless, getting them the critical services they need.

“Homeless students face enough barriers in their pursuit of a high school diploma without having to jump through federal hoops.” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia, in regards to the necessity of the legislation. “It’s time to cut through this federal bureaucracy and ensure that all homeless children have access to the services they need and deserve.”

To see recent data on the number of homeless students in your state who are excluded by HUD Regulations, download Falling Through the Gaps: Homeless Children and Youth at



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