‘Lost in the Masked Shuffle’: Pandemic Shields the Real Number of students experiencing homelessness
Original article written by Tim Walker for neaToday
In any given year, a drop in the number of students experiencing homelessness would be welcome news. However, with the covid-19 pandemic in the backdrop, the 28% decrease in the number of identified students experiencing homelessness in the fall of 2020 compared to the fall of 2019 can be attributed to an inability to identify and enroll these students. According to the most recent federal data, 1.5 million pre-K students are experiencing homeless, which indicates that roughly 423,000 students experiencing homelessness have slipped through the cracks and are not receiving the support and services they need. According to the report, this number is probably even higher: “There is significant evidence that public schools were dramatically under-identifying homelessness even before the pandemic. … Prior to the pandemic, public schools have been identifying only slightly more than half of high school students experiencing homelessness, meaning that as many as one million students experiencing homelessness have not been receiving services they need, and to which they are entitled under the federal McKinney-Vento Act.”
School district liaisons reporting on these lower numbers cited the "inability to identify families/youth due to distance learning/school building closure" as the main cause of this dramatic decrease. Liaisons also described unmet needs of children and youth in their communities, including internet (64%), shelter/housing (64%), food (47.3%), child care (36.7%), and health care (21.5%). Mental health concerns and lack of transportation also were frequently cited as concerns. The article explains that while the CARE Act did allow some relief funds to be allocated for programs affecting students experiencing homelessness, it did not include specific assistance for the McKinney-Vento Act's education program for homeless youth. The report published by SchoolHouse Connection in partnership with the University of Michigan states that increased outreach and support for children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness is vital in prioritizing their education and well-being.
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To read the full report from SchoolHouse Connection and the University of Michigan, CLICK HERE