Feb. 4 (UPI) — The number of homeless children and youth enrolled in public schools has reached 1.5 million, a record high, according to a national nonprofit.
Public schools identified 1.5 million homeless students in 2017-2018 school year, up 15 percent from 2015-2016, the National Center for Homeless Education, funded by the Department of Education, found. The increase was largely seen from 2016-2018, when the number jumped 11 percent.
The 1.5 million is a record high, the national nonprofit, SchoolHouse Connection, said in a statement.
“The record number of children and youth experiencing homelessness nationwide is alarming,” SchoolHouse Connection Executive Director Barbara Duffield said in the statement. “But for many of these children and youth, public schools are their best — and often only — source of support. Schools exist in all communities, regardless of whether or not there are enough shelter beds; they are required to identify, enroll, and serve homeless children and youth; they use a definition of homelessness that captures the reality of homelessness for youth and families; and they provide the tools children and youth need to succeed.”
Under education law, children and youth are categorized as homeless if they are residing in shelters, cars, motels, or with other people temporarily due to lack of alternatives.
Those residing in cars, parks or streets are considered unsheltered homeless. The number of unsheltered homeless children and youth was 102,527 in the 2017-2018 school year, a 104 percent increase from 50,187 in the same situation the previous school year, and a 137 percent increase over three school years.