The U.S. Department of Education reported a grim statistic last new year: the number of students who experience homelessness increased to 1.5 million schoolchildren. Since the onset of the pandemic, it’s probably safe to assume this number has risen due to financial hardships experienced by most Americans.
Homeless students, who’ve been labeled as the “invisible million,” often go unnoticed, but now that many schools have adapted to remote learning, their invisibility has grown more severe. Whether we can identify them or not, there’s an overwhelming amount of displaced students in America. Youth homelessness is an issue that every parent, every leader, and every community member should be aware of so that you can do your part to help.
A Closer Look at the Statistics
The National Center For Homeless Education released the Federal Data Summary in 2020 that offers a thorough overview of the reality of student homelessness in America from 2015-2016 through the 2017-2018 school years. The report found:
- The percentage of displaced students increased by 15 percent from the 2015-2016 school year to the 2017-2018 school year.
- 74 percent of students experiencing homelessness were “doubling up,” meaning the students shared housing with others. 12 percent resided in shelters as their primary nighttime residents, 7 percent in hotels or motels, and 5 percent were unsheltered.
- Unaccompanied youths make up 5 percent of the displaced student population.
- Children with disabilities make up the largest subgroup of students experiencing homelessness, followed by English learners.
- 41 percent to 83 percent of students experiencing homelessness graduated in those five years.
Solutions and Recommendations to Help Students Experiencing Homelessness
Local homelessness liaisons face a myriad of challenges such as lack of resources, mental health strains, and more. Thanks to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assitance Act, every state educational agency must appoint a liaison to support youth experiencing homelesness. Still, homeless liaisons could certainly use the help of the greater community to support homeless students.
Here are a few ways the community can rally behind homeless liaisons and support displaced youth:
- Help create and provide safe, affirming environments for students at local organizations, youth centers, and faith organizations.
- Raise awareness in the community by hosting a local meeting.
- Create a fundraiser and donate the funds or resources to the local homeless liaison.
- Donate basic necessities like bedding, toiletries, non-perishable foods, and clothes to homeless shelters.
Whether you’re an educator, or a parent, or just an average member of the community, you can be a part of the solution to help the 1.5 million children in our country experiencing homelessness. The rise of the population of displaced youth is troubling, especially during a time of economic crisis. More than ever, we need to raise awareness for the sea of students without stable homes.
If you want to learn more about how the federal government and local organizations address this problem and how you may be able to help, check out School House Connection, the nation’s leading resource on early care and education for youth experiencing homelessness.