Across the country, school is back in session. Though every new school year brings unique challenges for students, few are as difficult to overcome as those facing homeless students.
Each year, school personnel work to identify every homeless student in their districts while school is in session. This includes students who are living in shelters, motels or hotels, doubled up with family or friends, or on the street. (This measure is different than the one that the Department of Housing and Urban Development uses. Details on these differences can be found here.)
Data released this week by the Department of Education showed that homelessness amongst American students has continued to rise for the sixth year in a row. During the 2013-2014 school year, school personnel identified more than 1.36 million enrolled students as homeless. That’s an 8.2 percent increase from the previous school year and a 45 percent increase from the 2007-2008 school year.
Over the years, much of this increase in the homeless student population comes as a result of the dramatic increases in the number of students living doubled-up or in hotels or motels.
Now let’s take a closer look at the data from the most recent academic year, 2013-2014. Of the 1.36 million students identified as homeless, more than a third of them were in third grade or below and three-quarters were living doubled-up with family or friends.
Additionally, 91,351 of students identified as homeless (or 6.7 percent) were unaccompanied, meaning they were not currently living with their families.
These numbers are tragic. Every person—and every student—should have a safe, stable place to call home. Students already face many challenges, and homelessness should not be one of them.