- Homeless advocates warn the coronavirus pandemic could lead to a rise in housing instability for students, especially once eviction moratoriums lift. If so, more students would be eligible for federal assistance designed to help homeless students, as long as those students can be identified, Chalkbeat reports.
- The federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act guarantees certain services to homeless students who are living in emergency shelters, motels, cars and campgrounds or who are living with other families. Districts are being asked find ways to stay in touch with these students as part of their coronavirus response plans.
- It’s more difficult to monitor students’ needs during remote instruction, but food distribution sites provide opportunities to identify homeless students and those who qualify for services.
Studies show that homeless students are less likely to graduate or achieve academic proficiency than those living in poverty.
More than 1.5 million children and youth were homeless in the 2017-18 school year, long before the coronavirus pandemic began. The number of students sleeping in cars, parks and on the streets more than doubled in one year and the number of students living in hotels went up by 17%. The rate of English learners living in homeless conditions rose by 30% and went up by 16% for those with disabilities or who were unaccompanied.
It can be difficult to identify homeless students and get them on the track. A recent report from California’s state auditor found schools districts undercounted homeless students by 37% in the 2017-18 school year.
Austin Beutner, Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent, has asked that some of the $1 billion in funding for homeless California students the state is proposing be given to schools to help in identification and service connection. Beutner said his district has 17,000 homeless students, but none of the funds have been allocated to schools to help students.
Repurposing vacant schools could be a housing solution for homeless. For example, a historic school in Philadelphia was transformed into homeless veteran housing, and a family housing shelter was created out of a former school in Daytona Beach, Florida.
School leaders are seeking ways to establish trust with homeless students so they connect them to services. The Dallas Independent School District offers drop-in centers that provide food, hygiene products and laundry facilities for homeless high school students. They also provide mentors that connect students to more resources and housing. Meanwhile, a nonprofit in Maine is helping provide homes for homeless middle and high school students.