Homeless Students Are Hiding in Plain Sight

Over 1 Million Homeless Students in America’s Schools

Nationwide survey of homeless students and school liaisons highlights challenges and opportunities, just as ESSA requires districts and states – for the first time – to report high school graduation rates for homeless students

More than 1.3 million public school students were identified as homeless in 2012- 2013, a number that has been rising since 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

A new report, Hidden in Plain Sight: Homeless Students in America’s Public Schools, written by Civic Enterprises with Hart Research Associates and released by the GradNation campaign – provides insight into how educators, policymakers and community organizations can help more students cope with homelessness, graduate from high school and get on a path to adult success.

The report challenges the nation to embrace the goal of a 90 percent high school graduation rate for all students, including those experiencing homelessness, and to make the provision of safe housing for homeless students a priority.

Key survey findings provide a glimpse into the challenges homeless students face.

  • 78% of young people surveyed say homelessness was something they experienced more than once.
  • 61% say they were never connected with any outside organization for support while homeless; 87% of those who were connected found the help valuable.
  • 67% (approx. two-thirds) say they were uncomfortable talking with people at their school about their housing situation and related challenges.
  • 62% say proof of residency requirements and 56% say lack of cooperation between their new and old schools posed a major challenge for them while changing schools.
  • 54% say concrete supports (housing, food, transportation) and emotional supports are equally important.
  • 50% say they slept in a car, park, abandoned building, bus station or other public place.
  • As a subgroup, homeless students are one of the lowest graduating student populations in the nation — 42% say they dropped out of school at least once.

“Homelessness is a threat to everything students might want to achieve in their lives, but it doesn’t have to be a barrier to success for millions of students. Schools, community organizations and caring adults can create a web of support and lifelines to action that will help students experiencing homelessness cope and thrive.

“For the long term, we should aspire to make the provision of safe, affordable housing as common as school breakfast and lunch.”

Said John M. Bridgeland, president and CEO of Civic Enterprises and a co-author of the report.

The Homestretch (trailer) from spargel productions on Vimeo.

One of the report’s key recommendations is to Increase efforts to provide more affordable housing.

“Schools offer a significant opportunity for early intervention and outright prevention of student homelessness, but they must be properly supported. We all have a role in this—from federal and state policymakers to leaders within our local schools, nonprofits and businesses. We must all join with students themselves to ensure that every young person has the safe, stable home needed to thrive.”

Said Tricia Raikes, co-founder of the Raikes Foundation, lead sponsor of the report.

Hidden in Plain Sight: Homeless Students in America’s Public Schools

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