According to the National Center for Homeless Education, public schools identified 1.5 million children and youth experiencing homelessness in the 2017-2018 school year. This was an 11% increase over the previous school year and the highest number ever recorded nationally. Three years later, amid a global pandemic, SchoolHouse Connection Executive Director Barbara Duffield states, “The challenges are greater today and as there are fewer interactions between students and educators, we expect more students experiencing homelessness will fail to be identified, essentially living as an invisible population, and therefore remain without resources.”
This invisibility has a significant impact on a person’s future. Chapin Hall, an independent policy research center at the University of Chicago, found a lack of a high school degree or GED is the single greatest risk factor for experiencing homelessness as a young person.
However, preventing and ending youth homelessness is possible, and SchoolHouse Connection believes education is key to achieving this goal. As Ms. Duffield states, “Earlier identification of youth at risk of experiencing homelessness and those already experiencing homelessness – including the ‘hidden homelessness’ of youth who move from couch to couch – enables educators and local educational liaisons to connect students to services.”
A national nonprofit, SchoolHouse Connection believes education is the only permanent solution to homelessness. Their vision is that children and youth experiencing homelessness have full access to quality learning, birth through higher education, so they will never be homeless as adults, and the next generation will never be homeless.
The public can be instrumental in helping to overcome youth homelessness in their communities. People are encouraged to contact their local school district to learn how they can help. There may be community foundations or partners that offer direct opportunities, such as mentoring and tutoring programs, to assist this population.
SchoolHouse Connection has created a new public service announcement to inform young people about their educational rights. Narrated by a young woman who experienced homelessness as a high school student, the PSA emphasizes the importance of school and how education can lead to a better life.
You can help raise awareness about the role of education for homeless youth during National Runaway Prevention Month by sharing the PSA with your network. The PSA can be found below.