Respect Poverty

More students are experiencing homelessness than ever before


Story at a glance

  • The number of public-school students experiencing homelessness increased from 1.3 million in the 2015-2016 school year to 1.5 million in the 2017-2018 school year.
  • An 11 percent increase was recorded in one year.
  • Advocates call the report “alarming.”

The number of public-school students who are experiencing homelessness is increasing at a record rate, according to recently released federal data. 

A report released this week by the National Center for Homeless Education found that the number of public school students who were homeless at some point in the past three school years increased from 1.3 million in the 2015-2016 school year to 1.5 million in the 2017-2018 school year, a 15 percent increase. 

There was an 11 percent increase between the 2016-2017 and the 2018-2019 school year. 

According to the national nonprofit SchoolHouse Connection, which is an advocate on behalf of children and teens experiencing homelessness, the 1.5 million students dealing with homelessness is a record high. 

“The record number of children and youth experiencing homelessness nationwide is alarming,” Barbara Duffield, executive director of SchoolHouse Connection, said in a statement

“As high as these numbers are, our identification efforts still need work before they accurately reflect how many children and youth — including young children under the age of six — experience homelessness,” Duffield said. 

The report shows the growth of student homelessness is taking place across the country, with 16 states reporting a growth of at least 10 percent, with eight showing a 20 percent spike. Texas saw a 100 percent increase, with the number of homeless students doubling. 

Meanwhile, only 13 states saw a drop in students experiencing homelessness, and only five reported a reduction of more than 10 percent. 

The report also underscored the barriers to academic success students experiencing homelessness face. During the 2018-2019 school year, roughly 29 percent of students reached academic proficiency in reading, 24 percent were proficient in math and 26 percent achieved proficiency in science. 

The report notes it does not reflect the totality of students who may experience homelessness and the number could be greater, as children who have dropped out, young children not enrolled in preschool or students who may have experienced homelessness in the summer are not shown in the data.