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November’s Brown vs. Board Challenge: Serving Homeless Students

<< #OurChallengeOurHope Homepage

For November, as part of National Homeless Children and Youth Awareness Month, our #OurChallengeOurHope campaign will elevate the needs of homeless students. We will speak with educators, advocates, and homeless students to learn more about the challenges homeless students face and, more importantly, how schools and school districts can help meet their needs.

More Than 1.3 Million Homeless Students

For the 2016-17 school year, there were more than 1.3 million homeless students enrolled in public K-12 schools—a 7 percent increase over the past three years. Preliminary data for 2017-18 estimates there were more than 1.5 million homeless children and youth, the highest number on record.

According to SchoolHouse Connection, a national non-profit organization working to overcome homelessness through education, homelessness creates barriers to education access and success, including “being unable to meet enrollment requirements; high mobility resulting in lack of continuity and absenteeism; lack of transportation; lack of supplies and clothing; poor health, fatigue, and hunger; and emotional crisis/mental health issues.”

Facing these and other challenges, homeless children and youth often struggle in school. Nationwide, only 64 percent of homeless students graduate from high school—a rate that is the lowest among the subgroups of students for which data is reported and 14 percentage points below the rate for students from low-income families (78.3 percent).

WEBINAR: Recognizing and Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness

In this webinar, Topeka Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tiffany Anderson describes how she transformed a vacant school office building into “Hope House,” a shelter for foster and homeless students in the district. Barbara Duffield, Executive Director of SchoolHouse Connection and an advocate for students experiencing homelessness for more than 20 years, describes how schools can effectively identify and support students who are homeless. Most importantly, Kara Freise, a student at Columbia University Teachers College, discusses her harrowing experiences as a high school and college student experiencing homelessness and how educators can approach and engage with students who may be homeless.

Recommended Reading

Never Stop Telling Your Story: Seven Questions with Destiny Dickerson, SchoolHouse Connection Young Leader

In this interview, Destiny Dickerson, who experienced homeless as a high school student, explains why educators sometimes have difficulty recognizing homelessness.

“Most homeless children and students are ashamed of their struggles or are told that they cannot talk about it, so they hide it well. I made sure that my shoes and clothes always appeared clean, even if I had to hand wash them in the hotel bathtub,” Dickerson says. “I think it is immensely important to notice the little things. That student always snacking might not be getting enough to eat. That quiet student who never talks might be going through depression. That student who is overly outgoing and trying to be pleasing might be compensating for an abusive and degrading parental relationship. If something seems off, then it probably is.”

Now a student at San Diego State University, Dickerson is pursuing a degree in clinical psychology. “Having had to silently deal with so many mental health issues and watching others struggle in their own ways, I have developed a passion to want to help those struggling to find inner peace,” she says.

Community Partnership Helping Homeless Students is Up and Running

“This is really about homeless youth, it’s in our strategic plan to reduce poverty in Topeka and we have to do something,” says Topeka Public Schools USD 501 Superintendent Dr. Tiffany Anderson. “Ultimately our role is to empower families and … be a key player in breaking the generational cycle of poverty and reducing homelessness in the city of Topeka.”

Tennessee Teen Graduates as High School Valedictorian, Earns $3 Million in Scholarships, All While Homeless

“Your location is not your limitation,” says Tupac Moseley.

Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.