Back to school: why do we have so many homeless students?

For many students who are experiencing homelessness, poverty, or food insecurity, it’s something their peers and teachers don’t even realize. During the 2013-14 school year, more than 1.3 million homeless children and youth were enrolled in public schools in the United States.

While we are seeing a slight decline in overall family homelessness in the US, the 2015 Point in Time Count found that 37% of all people experiencing homelessness were families, usually with 1-2 children. This includes families living in temporary shelters or housing. What’s harder to know definite numbers on are those families who are ‘doubled up’ living with others, considered at-risk and an unstable living situation that could change at any moment.

The impact of homelessness on our students

The students who are currently living in poverty have an incredibly more challenging time in school. Keeping up with homework battles with finding their next meal. Often high absences or consistently switching schools become a barrier that feels impossible to overcome. This leads to higher dropout rates, which unfortunately perpetuates a cycle of poverty.

The role of the teacher in supporting these students is becoming more important, though teachers don’t always have a clear path in how to support those students.

As this issue gains more attention nationwide, these students recently won more support from the federal government. The US Department of Education released new guidance in working with homeless students to provide better support.

What can you do to help?

Ending the cycle of poverty begins with families and giving youth the support to succeed. Many organizations focus on families like HandUp partners Compass Family Services and Hamilton Family Center. Look for these types of organizations in your community where you can donate your money or time.

Want to do something right now? Check out this new back to school fundraiser for Stand Up for Kids. The funds raised will go toward clothing, food, school supplies, and their mentorship program for kids experiencing homelessness.