The data measured in the report showed that children enrolled in public preschool and grades kindergarten through twelfth increased eight percent, reaching over one million. The 2010-2011 school year recorded 1,065,794 homeless students, following with 1,168,354 in 2011-2012, and finally, ultimately reached the record high number of 1,258,182 in 2012-2013.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the largest percentage (seventy-five percent) of these recorded homeless students live “doubled up.” This is defined as “a term that refers to a situation where individuals are unable to maintain their housing situation and are forced to stay with a series of friends and/or extended family members.” This definition is used by health centers financially backed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), according to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council (NHCHC).
The remaining percentages live in shelters (sixteen percent), without any shelter at all (about three percent), and “unaccompanied,” which is defined as living “without another person” (around six percent).
But exactly who are these homeless students and what other obstacles (besides the obvious issue of their homelessness) do they face? In the 2012-2013 school year, it was recorded that a prominent number of homeless students suffer from disabling impediments and many have difficulty speaking proper English. According to the U.S. Department of Education, sixteen percent of the recorded homeless students are children living with disabilities, fourteen percent struggle with limited English proficiency, and six percent are unaccompanied youth.
As the number of homeless students in America has rapidly risen over the course of recent years, scores received on individual state evaluation examinations have slightly decreased (approximately three percent, overall, in grades three through twelve). The recorded homeless students in the report released by the U.S. Department of Education showed a lack in reading and math proficiency skills.
This data does not include children that are too young to start school yet or ones that do not attend public schools. Therefore, there are a number of other homeless children that simply may not attend school for one reason or another or just may not attend public school, which is why they were not included in the U.S. Department of Education’s most recent report.
Homeless children likely fall behind in school due to exhaustion that results from the restless nights caused by lack of shelter, the dangers of being on their own and hunger.
However, despite these incredible odds against them, some students that were previously homeless at some point in their lives have overcome the hindering obstacles of homelessness by being accepted to and ultimately attending college.
For example, according to People Magazine online, Los Angeles teen James Ward grew up homeless, yet was accepted to multiple colleges in 2013 and with the help of a proactive mentor and a donation campaign, ultimately went on to attend Howard University. According to the online blog Hello Beautiful, D.C. teen Rashema Melson lived in a homeless shelter with her mother and two siblings for two years until she earned a 4.0 GPA in high school and eventually was awarded a full ride scholarship to Georgetown University. Additionally, according to CNN online, North Carolina teen Dawn Loggins, abandoned by her drug-abusing parents and a part time janitor at the high school she attended, was admitted to Harvard University and is now a member of their class of 2016.
Also according to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council (NHCHC), health centers financially backed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) use two technically “official” definitions of homelessness.
The first is, “an individual who lacks housing (without regard to whether the individual is a member of a family), including an individual whose primary residence during the night is a supervised public or private facility (e.g., shelters) that provides temporary living accommodations, and an individual who is a resident in transitional housing.”
The second states, “A homeless person is an individual without permanent housing who may live on the streets; stay in a shelter, mission, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned building or vehicle; or in any other unstable or non-permanent situation.”
“As far as education goes, I think we need to promote school to homeless students and attempt to get them to actually want to go. If the desire to even go at all isn’t there, how can we help them get out of poverty? If they can barely make it through the day because they don’t have access to the necessities, how are they supposed to focus or do well? We need to give them hope in order for them to succeed,” said Junior Seri Sipe.
To help more and more students get off the streets and eventually into college, many organizations along with the help of advocates are working to help unaccompanied homeless youth access financial aid.