Number of homeless students reaches new record, 1.26 million

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by Félix Pérez

While the new school year began only a month ago, Beth McCullough already sees this year shaping up to be the busiest in her 14 years as a homeless student liaison  in Michigan.

“I’m seeing more students, and they’re staying homeless longer,” said McCullough. “It’s much more precarious. There are no beds in the shelters, so mothers are moving in with abusive boyfriends and kids are couch-hopping — a couple of nights here, a couple of nights there.”

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The surge in the number of homeless students and the frayed, patchwork quilt of public and private relief agencies and groups McCullough described are all too common.

According to recently released data from the U.S. Department of Education, 1,258,182 students enrolled in public schools across the country were homeless in 2012-13. Of those, 75,940 were unaccompanied youths living on their own; 200,950 had disabilities.  The total number of homeless students rose 8 percent from the previous school year and by nearly 500,000 since the 2007-08 school year, when there were 795,054 homeless students.

The 10 states with the highest number of homeless students were:

  1. California, 259,656
  2. New York, 131,600
  3. Texas, 101,088
  4. Florida, 66,956
  5. Illinois, 50,520
  6. Michigan, 38,636
  7. Georgia, 36,934
  8. Kentucky, 34,012
  9. Arizona, 30,934
  10. Washington, 30,609

“The trends mirror what is going on economically,” said Diana Bowman, director of the National Center for Homeless Education. The primary contributing factors are the Great Recession and its record number of home foreclosures, personal bankruptcies and cratering middle class job market.

Homelessness “impacts students’ physical and mental health, and high school students in many cases are more predisposed to drop out,” said Bowman. “Some students will change schools three, four, sometimes five times in a school year. They move school to school, district to district.”

Studies have found:

  • Children experiencing homelessness are more likely to be diagnosed with learning disabilities.
  • Homeless students transfer schools more often, are more likely to miss school, and have lower standardized test scores.
  • Homelessness is the highest risk factor in determining if a student leaves school before graduation; homeless students are 87 percent more likely than their peers to leave school.
  • Forty to 60 percent of unaccompanied homeless youth were abused physically in their homes, and 20 to 40 percent were abused sexually.

McCullough, who works with homeless student liaisons in 24 school districts in two counties, Monroe and Lenawee, said finding services for unaccompanied youth is especially challenging. “I call in chits, I beg. I call pastors I’ve known for years and plead with them.”

Honored by the White House in 2012 as a Champion of Change for her work against youth homelessness, McCullough said there were 1,386 homeless students last school year in the two counties she serves; 252 of those were unaccompanied youth. “Really, these are all our kids that are being left behind,” said McCullough. But in the next breath she mentioned that one of the unaccompanied youths this year, a high school senior, has a 4.7 GPA and has applied to Harvard.

Reader Comments

  1. I do volunteer work,approx. 20 hours per week in addition to my career. I am trying to make my community a better place to live. But,companies have a fiduciary responsibility to their stockholders to maximize their profits. They do not owe any employee a job by staying on American soil. IF some of these corporations were not a) taxed to death and b) hamstrung with often pointless regulations,they would not move overseas. Unions,which played a serious and vital role in the 30s and 40s need to GO as well. They have become bloated and corrupt political machines that no longer serve the regular guy. If you want to lay the problem of homeless kids on any ONE doorstep,you would be wrong. There is PLENTY of blame to go around. So why not just go out there and make a difference when and where you can. Change the life of one kid. It doesn’t have to cost anything more than your time.

  2. the children I have known who have been homeless are troubled. One child I know came from out of state. Getting educational information from previous schools was difficult. The child has great emotional needs. Getting him to learn is challenging. We are finally having a meeting in two weeks. It will be the 12th week of school. He is a disruption in the classroom, and shuts down several times a day. I’m expecting our meeting to get him some kinds of help, but resources are limited. It is sad.

  3. Bob hit the nail on the head. Companies sent their manufacturing overseas so they could make a few extra bucks. What do we get in return? Folks that used to work in those factories in the US become unemployed. If they are lucky enough to find a job, it probably pays a lot less than what they had previously been earning. As a result, they aren’t paying taxes (or as much), and probably need more government services to keep their families fed, clothed and housed, and don’t have the funds to buy any extras. And consumers are just as much to blame, because we love our cheap, imported items…that break easily, necessitate recalls due to unacceptable levels of toxins, etc. Raising the minimum wage isn’t the answer- the poor who will now have more money as a result of a higher minimum wage will now be paying out more money because the cost of goods and services will rise because the employer will need to pay their workers significantly more- a vicious cycle. If people want to help this country then 1- buy more American-made goods. They may be tough to find, but they are out there. 2- Encourage companies to open/reopen factories here in the US.

    1. Yes, and the NEA will continue to slavishly support the Democratic Party even though President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and the lot of them pour the national treasury into the coffers of their campaign contributors who then show record profits. Think Lockheed Martin. Think $100 billion for “modernizing” nuclear weapons. Then think cuts to children’s nutrition programs.

      All on the Democrats’ watch. Because those candidates take just as much $$$$ from corporations as Republicans do.

  4. Welcome to the global economy and the lie that it is. A country can’t survive, especially as a democracy, if only a small percentage of our citizens, as well as their foreign counterparts, are being favored over the masses. By allowing big business and Wall Street to pretty much eliminate ALL of our manufacturing of everyday consumer goods, not to mention millions of other jobs as well, over the last thirty years, all for their financial gain, we’ve essentially been led as a nation to make a small few filthy rich by bankrupting the rest of our citizens and country. There is no such thing as a job that isn’t needed! Yet, all the pro business scum bag groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (not a government agency by the way) loved to say, and still do, that all those jobs were ones we didn’t need. We’re a nation of roughly 330 million people, quite a lot of those people, in fact the majority, don’t have college degrees. We need to have those decent to good paying jobs that allowed so many people to be able to support their families and pay taxes based on those wages that in turn financed our country and fueled our economy. A sound economy is one that is like a circle. A person works, gets paid for their work, spends that money on necessary goods and services which in turn is cycled back into the economy by paying the workers that produced those goods and services. When the circle is broken, as the wonderful lie of the global economy does, millions of valuable jobs are sent elsewhere. All those lost jobs are lost tax revenue that helped fund our country, not to mention helped those workers keep a roof over their heads and food on their plates. Anyone who thinks social programs are bad should look nowhere else than our business community that thinks they shouldn’t have to pay for labor. Now when a person goes to the store to buy something it’s damn near impossible to find anything still made in the U.S.A.. As such, the money that is spent instead of going back into our economy as wages for workers, and tax dollars for our country, it’s going overseas to well connect factory owners who are making fortunes and treating their workers like slaves and paying them as such. But the lion share of money is going up to the corporate crooks and the Wall Street vultures who don’t think they should have to pay taxes, and unfortunately have every trick in the book to get out of paying them. Thanks to wonderful bills that have recently been passed, such as Citizens United versus FEC (corporations should have just as much of an equal voice and say as individual citizens) and McCutcheon versus FEC (allows political donators to spend as much money and influence as they want, essentially if you have the bucks you can legally buy our government) the flood gates have been opened to allow money to influence our whole political system even more than it already did. Of course Republicans were instrumental in getting both of those laws passed, but there was of course Democrats that helped as well.

    We once as a nation built our wonderful highway system, our bridges, dams, railroads (while there was a lot of private money involved they wouldn’t have been possible without our government, bonds, land allotments, etc.), same for our electrical power grid with land use rights and tax payer assistance. As a nation we sent man into space.

    Now we have a small percentage of our citizens holding idiotic amounts of wealth that they could have no rational way earned. Our roads, bridges, and dams are crumbling because our tax base has been decimated due to loss of jobs and wages for our everyday citizens. Now our roads are being bought and owned and added on to by foreign companies that run them as toll roads. Parking lots in major cities are being bought and owned by foreign investment firms and companies. Individuals are now holding enough wealth to run their own space programs. Pretty much all of our essential need systems, housing, food, energy, education, healthcare, etc., are being run strictly for investment purposes which is bad with a capital B and Wall Street is loving it and laughing all the way to the bank.

    We were led from a production economy to one based on number crunching and paper shuffling. A phony liars economy that only favors a few, and the more arrogant and self centered, lacking decency that one has, the farther they’ll go. Sadly those same greedy low life’s with their unearned fortunes buy and control our government and media for their benefit. Instead of a government of the people, by the people, for the people, we have a government of a certain connected group of people, by those same connected people, for those same connected people.

  5. Increasing minimum wage just makes things worse for the poor. It will never be enough unless it’s upped to about $30 and that’s not going to happen. The government needs to decrease their budget by giving handouts to banks, etc., whatever they are wasting our taxes on! And stop forcing small businesses to pay astronomical taxes and insurance benefits so they can hire people for more money. I am poor and raising my wage is going to just cause all the things I pay for go up that same amount.

    1. Rachel Alexander: I’m reading your frustration, but I hearing too much FAUX news. Raising the minimum wage will help you move ahead in the world. People at the low end of the economic scale spend what they make. We’ve had 30 years of Reaganomics supply side economics, and it has been a miserable failure for good people like you.

      Raising the minimum wage creates demand, and that is what drives the economy. Prices will not raise as much as wages, because of strong competition in the marketplace. Businesses cannot pass along increases and still be competitive. So, you would be ahead of the economy.

      The government closing programs will only hurt the poor. It is that safety net that helps the poor and near-poor. On the other hand, should we back out of the wars we are fighting?

      Small businesses are paying disproportionately, but that’s because the WalMarts and KMarts of this world have much lower taxes than they should. It is the poor that suffer from the big corporations who are buying our politicians. The poor need health insurance. They can finally get it affordable. You, if you fall under the definition of poor, can get insurance free or for a small premium.

      Rachel, as a teacher, I’m telling you: don’t listen to FAUX or believe them. They admitted in court that they lie to generate audience and more money. Listen critically to what they say and listen to what they don’t say. What they don’t say is the lie.

  6. This is unexcusable. How can our country allow this to happen? This is not because people don’t want to work. It is because there are no jobs that pay the rent, food, etc. Fast food jobs don’t pay the rent.

  7. This sickens me to no end. Whilst Congress continues to get paid for behaving badly and waging an internal war on American families….these children are losing every single right that our Constitution promised them….

  8. In Massachusetts, there are approximately 6000 Unaccompanied youth (14 years – 24 years old) who are on their own without parents or guardians and with very few housing and shelter options. The Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless has filed state legislation House Bill 135- An Act Providing Housing and Support Services for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth, and we hope the state legislature will pass it during informal session before January or else we will have to start all over again to submit new legislation.
    6000 YOUTH WITHOUT HOMES CAN’T WAIT!

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