Sleeping in cars, shelters, or abandoned spaces. “Couch surfing” at the houses of friends or families. Finding meals and places to shower. These are just some of the issues thousands of local students struggle to balance — all while trying to blend in, make friends, and do well in school. Some young people are so good at hiding their individual realities that friends, fellow students, teachers, and coaches are unaware of their housing challenges.
Pre-pandemic, public schools across the country reported an unprecedented number of youth experiencing homelessness, with nearly 1.3 million identified (SchoolHouse Connection). Recent reporting indicates these numbers could be much higher. Here locally, Fairfax County Public Schools estimate that 2,300 students will experience homelessness this school year, and 200 of those students will be without any adult supervision. How is this possible in one of the country’s wealthiest counties where household incomes are nearly twice the national average?
Together, let’s learn more. We held a virtual discussion via Zoom on Thursday, April 13 from Noon to 12:45 PM EDT with two local leaders on the subject of youth homelessness. We hosted FCPS Homeless & Foster Care Liaison Kathi Sheffel and Second Story CEO Judith Dittman. Together, Kathi and Judith bring a combined 50 years of experience helping youth in crisis.
- What does youth homelessness look like in wealthy Fairfax County’s public schools?
- Why is it so hard to identify students experiencing homelessness?
- What services are available for students who lack housing?
- How can community members help?
Speakers featured included:
- Kathi Sheffel, FCPS Homeless and Foster Care Liaison
- Judith Dittman, Second Story CEO