A new report from the National Center for Homeless Education revealed disturbing information about homelessness amongst school-aged youth across the United States.
The report found that in the past three school years (from 2014-2015 to 2016-2017) the number of identified school-aged youth experiencing homelessness at any point during the year increased by 7%, from a little over 1.2 million to a little over 1.3 million homeless youth. Virginia had an even more drastic increase — more than 14%.
Insights from the report also include:
- The number of young people who are without the support of a parent or legal guardian changed the most, increasing by 25%. (If they’re under 18 they can find a safe haven at Second Story for Teens in Crisis. If they are 18 to 24, they can apply to receive long-term support and housing from Second Story for Homeless Youth.)
- The number of homeless school-aged students has increased by 70% in the past ten years.
- Most homeless students, 76%, weren’t living on the streets but were “sharing housing” — living unsustainably with others or couch surfing, for example. Second Story finds that the young people we serve were often in this sort of position before they found us. This makes them harder to find and identify, because it defies our collective stereotype of homelessness.
- Only 64% of homeless students graduated in the 2016 to 2017 school year, compared to 84% of all students. Other studies have found this link between poor academic performance and homelessness, too. According to a 2017 report from the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness, homeless students sleep less and experience higher rates of depression than their housed peers. At Second Story we have also noticed that, before they enter our programs, many homeless students are working full time to try to afford a place to stay, leaving little time for homework. Alternatively, last year 100% of seniors in Second Story’s programs graduated from high school.
Second Story is doing everything we can, but we can only serve as many young people as our resources allow. We dream of a community where every young person is safe and has the opportunities they deserve. This report suggests the need is deepening faster than the growth of our programs allow. Unfortunately, this shouldn’t surprise us – while you continue to be more and more generous as a community, federal aid has not increased in more than eight years.
As we seek to provide opportunities for young people, a report like this should motivate us, not distress us. It should show us the work we have to do, help us focus our efforts, and warn us against complacency in our communities.
If you’re inspired to be part of our efforts, we hope you’ll consider giving to further our mission.
You can read the full report here.