Four years into the nation’s economic recovery, youth homelessness is only getting worse. The latest data by the U.S. Department of Education was compiled and released in an October 2013 report by the National Center for Homeless Education. The data show that youth homelessness has reached a record high, with around 1.2 million (1,168,354) children without homes.
The data from 2011-2012 indicate a 10 percent increase in student homelessness from the previous school term, and a 72 percent increase since the recession in 2007. The data includes students enrolled in American preschools or K – 12 schools, but still underestimates the number of homeless children. Infants and toddlers, as well as older children not enrolled in public school programs are not included in the data.
Only eight states saw decreases in the number of homeless students, while 41 states saw increases. Fifteen states reported an increase of 10 percent or more, and ten states saw an increase of 20 percent or more. The highest increases were reported in Maine and North Dakota, with over 50 percent.
The data also showcases how many students were served by McKinney-Vento sub grants in each state, which use federal funds to protect homeless children. However, while the U.S. Department of education requires state and local education agencies (LEAs) to submit information on homeless youths, 6 percent of LEAs did not report data. Moreover, the report notes that increases in number of LEAs with sub grants reporting information could affect this data by showing more homeless youths served by LEAs with sub grants.
The report also showed that 75 percent of homeless children lived in “doubled-up” housing as their nighttime residence, meaning they are sharing the housing of other people, while 15 percent live in shelters, 6 percent in hotels/motels and 4 percent unsheltered. Doubled-up housing has been the primary residence for homeless youths since the 2009 – 2010 school term, according to the data.
Homeless students are also falling behind academically. Although the report does not dictate why, it is evident that around half the homeless students from third grade through high school did not meet state proficiency requirements for math and reading during the 2011 – 2012 school term, a 1 percent decrease from the previous term.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the National Center for Homeless Education is the technical and informational arm of the federal Education for Homeless Children and Youth program. They are devoted to addressing the needs of children experiencing homelessness by providing research, resources, training and awareness on the issues that arise from it.