The Faces of Homelessness: Students
When you think of homelessness, do you picture older individuals living on the streets?The reality of homelessness is broader than you think. Even before the spread of the COVID-19 virus, America was experiencing an economic crisis that led many people, including students, to end up on the streets.
According to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2001, a homeless child is any child who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. This means that any student who shares housing with others, is awaiting foster care placement or is living (with or without their parents) in motels, cars, campgrounds, shelters or bus stations is considered homeless.
According to recent studies, the number of homeless students in the U.S.is the highest in more than a decade. Most of the 1.5 million homeless students stay with other families or friends after they lose their homes. Buta report by the National Centre for Homeless Education shows, seven percent live in abandoned cars and buildings.
The most recent data shows that less than a third of homeless students are able to read adequately, and the score is even lower for mathematics and science. Due to their circumstances, homeless students don't have the opportunity to just focus on school, so they often fall behind. And their number keeps on growing.
Why Is This Demographic Growing?
The homelessness problem in the U.S. is linked to the national housing crisis. Millions of people spend more than half of their income on housing, and most of them can’t afford to buy a house. Increasing rents and housing shortages force tens of thousands of people to live in inadequate conditions. With the severe changes in the economy and the growth of permanent layoffs due to the ongoing pandemic, many parents don’t have the money to pay their rent.
The opioid crisis is another major reason for homelessness: More than two million people are addicted to prescription drugs, causing many families to break apart.
Also, a predominant number of homeless students are members of the LGBTQ+ community. The most common cause for this is their family’s rejection or abuse.
What Can Be Done?
Few individuals have needs as serious, complex and intense as homeless students. They struggle with such problems as hunger, unintentional injuries or illnesses, economic exclusion and other dangers that can happen while living on the streets.
Most experts agree that the solution lies in providing better housing options at affordable rates and providing support to those affected by trauma or addiction. The support should continue even after the crisis has ended.
It is as important to track students' performance from such families over a longer period because the impact of having experienced homelessness can continue even if a child is in a stable housing situation.