New Jersey Sees 27% Increase in Students Experiencing Homelessness

Increase of Homeless Students in 2017-18 Comes in Face of Affordable Housing Crisis

On February 3, 2020, The New York Times reported that more than 1.5 million public school students nationwide reported experiencing homelessness in the 2017-18 school year.

These numbers come from a National Center for Homeless Education report. Their families face finding affordable homes in the midst of a nationwide affordable housing crisis.

Between the 2015-16 and 2017-18 school years, the number of public school students experiencing homelessness increased by 15 percent. The number of students experiencing homelessness in the U.S. is the highest that it has been in more than a dozen years.

In New Jersey, there were 10,391 three- to 5-year-olds, kindergarten through grade 12, and ungraded students between 2015-2016. The number held relatively steady between 2016-2017 and then increased to 13, 234 students between 2017-2018. This was a 27.4 percent.

Experts cite that one reason for this dramatic increase of students experienced homelessness could be that public school districts, officials and teachers are doing a better job of identifying students experiencing homelessness. They know some of signals to look for that may indicate that a child’s family is experiencing homelessness.

Better identifying students experiencing homelessness because schools can make referrals to connect children and families experiencing homelessness with the housing and services that they need and connect them with assistance such as the federal lunch program.

One of the report’s more tragic findings is that number of students who reported staying in unsheltered places like abandoned buildings and cars rose 137 percent.

Imagine how students must struggle to get ready for school each morning, eat breakfast and complete homework assignments when they are essentially living outside?  They may live in cars or doubled up with friends rather than report their homelessness if they are living in fear that they might be reported for neglect to local child welfare officials

In addition to the troublesome finding that students and their families are living unsheltered, the report shares data around the population of New Jersey students with disabilities experiencing homelessness.  Twenty-three percent (23%) of homeless children and youth had disabilities during the 2017-18 school year.

Households with children with disabilities may need even more extend support services than households without children with disabilities. The parents may face added barriers in finding and keeping work if because of their disabilities, their children need specialized child care or transportation to specific school programs.