Number of Homeless Students in the US Surges 15%, Now Topping 1.5 Million

By the National Center for Homeless Education.March 8, 2020 | EDUCATE!

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The National Center for Homeless Education recently released its report on homeless students in the United States.

Download the report here.

Each year, states submit data on the demographics and academic performance of students experiencing homelessness to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) through the EDFacts Submission System. This report summarizes that data and examines current trends in the education of these students.

The number of homeless students enrolled in public school districts and reported by state educational agencies (SEAs) during school year (SY) 2017-18 was 1,508,265. This number does not reflect the totality of children and youth experiencing homelessness, as it only includes those students who are enrolled in public school districts or local educational agencies (LEAs.) It does not capture school-aged children and youth who experience homelessness during the summer only, those who dropped out of school, or young children who are not enrolled in preschool programs administered by LEAs.

Key findings of this report include the following:

• The number of identified, enrolled students reported as experiencing homelessness at some point during the last three school years increased 15 percent, from 1,307,656 students in SY 2015-16 to 1,508,265 students in SY 2017-18.

• Sixteen states experienced growth in their homeless student populations of 10 percent or more during the three-year period covered in this report. In contrast, only five states saw equally large decreases during the same period.

• The number of school districts that received subgrants under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (McKinney-Vento Act) saw little change; 4,387 school districts, or just under one-quarter of all districts in the country, received either an award as a single school district or an award as part of a regional consortium during SY 2017-18.

• Funding for the Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program increased by almost $12 million between fiscal years(FYs) 2015 and 2017.

• States provided an average per pupil amount of $76.50 in McKinney-Vento funding to school districts for the additional supports needed by homeless students in SY 2017-18. Due to increases in the number of students identified as homeless, the average per pupil amount increased less than $3.00 between SYs 2015-16 and 2017-18, despite the increase in funding overall.

• During SY 2017-18, 74 percent of students experiencing homelessness shared housing with others due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason. Twelve percent of homeless students resided in shelters. Seven percent had a primary nighttime residence of hotels or motels, and 7 percent were identified as unsheltered.

• Over the three-year period, the number of students in unsheltered situations at the time they were first identified increased by 137 percent. Homeless students living in hotels or motels increased by 24 percent while students in doubled-up situations increased by 13 percent. In contrast, the number of students staying in shelters decreased by 2 percent.

• The change in the unaccompanied homeless youth subgroup was consistent with the growth of the homeless student population overall, with an increase of 16 percent between SYs 2015- 16 and 2017-18. Additionally, unaccompanied homeless youth make up nine percent of the homeless student population.

• Students experiencing homelessness who are also English learners increased by 30 percent between SYs 2015-16 and 2017-18. Despite the large increase in the number of English learners who experienced homelessness, they still make up roughly the same percentage of the homeless student population as they did in SYs 2015-16 and 2016-17 due to the overall increase in the number of students experiencing homelessness.

• The subgroup of homeless students with a disability enrolled in school increased by 15 percent between SYs 2015-16 and 2017-18. Approximately 14 percent of all students have an identified disability. In comparison, 18 percent of homeless students have an identified disability. Additionally, 31 states reported that at least 20 percent of their homeless students had an identified disability.

• During SY 2017-18, approximately 29 percent of students experiencing homelessness achieved academic proficiency in reading (language arts). During the same school year, 24 percent of the students achieved proficiency in mathematics, while 26 percent achieved proficiency in science.

Some important limitations must be considered when interpreting the data summarized in this report.

For example, data on academic achievement measures cannot be compared across years when states change academic standards and the related assessments. The duration, cause, and conditions of homelessness are also not controlled for and could impact both demographics of students experiencing homelessness and academic outcomes.

Read the full report here.