Homelessness Among Students

Homelessness is stigmatized, and many people unconsciously stereotype those who are unhoused. Often, we imagine someone experiencing homelessness as a middle-aged individual who is at fault for their state of being. However, this is not always true. Everyone makes bad choices, but homelessness is not necessarily the result of choices. More often, homelessness results from uncontrollable life events, whether that’s a car accident, losing a job, a sudden illness, or other events of that nature. 

Students are often victims of these life-changing events. Homelessness among students is an issue that is not addressed enough. Homeless students are defined as students who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. To be more specific, these students live in shared housing, hotels or motels, shelters, and unsheltered places (such as cars, parks, and abandoned buildings.) According to The National Center for Homeless Education, 1,280,866 students were identified to be experiencing homelessness in public schools during the 2019-2020 school year. Moreover, there has been a steady 5% increase in student homelessness since the 2004-2005 school year. 

Homelessness for a student can make it a struggle to access equal learning opportunities. According to the Education Department, students experiencing homelessness are given the right to enroll in school. This is a bit difficult, however, as these students often do not have access to required documentation such as a birth certificate, proof of residence, immunization records, etc. A major challenge the Education Department faced in recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, was providing students experiencing homelessness with access to online learning.

In short, the student homelessness situation is a crisis that requires more attention. A lot of times, students experiencing homelessness view schools as a safe space – somewhere they have control over their lives and where they feel a sense of belonging. Schools provide these students with a caring environment as well as an organized and predictable daily schedule. Because of this, it is essential that the school system gives these students more attention and tries to assist them as much as possible. 

A mixture of coordinated community and government responses is required to end student homelessness. It is important that youth at risk of homelessness are properly identified, and that prevention guidelines are put in place. It is also essential that adequate transitional housing is ensured for these students. Affordable housing and transitional living programs are things that should also be looked into, as this can prevent early reentry into homelessness. It is imperative that we improve the system’s approach toward students experiencing homelessness in an effort to put an end to it. 


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