Number of Homeless Students Climbs for 8th Consecutive Year

In the wake of the January 21st Fill the Truck 2 event, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction released the numbers of homeless students in Washington State Friday. Here are the numbers from the school districts in Mason County:

District Name District Enrollment (P-12 total) # of Identified Homeless
Grapeview School District 229 17
Hood Canal School District 312 52
Mary M Knight School District 157 n<10
North Mason School District 2,180 136
Pioneer School District 690 26
Shelton School District 4,341 429
Southside School District 190 n<10

Below is a news release from OSPI:

More than 39,000 students don’t have a permanent place to sleep

For too many children, time that could be spent studying is spent worrying about where they will sleep.

Numbers released today by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction show that in 2015-16, 39,671 Washington students were counted as homeless. The number is an 11.7 percent increase from 2014-15 and nearly double (90.9 percent) the 2008-09 count.

The numbers are collected annually as part of the federal McKinney-Vento Act, which provides that homeless students be given the same access to education as other students and cannot be separated from other students.

Where feasible, the students can remain in the district they were in before becoming homeless and are provided transportation to and from school.

“Children shouldn’t have to worry about where they will sleep at night,” said Chris Reykdal, Superintendent of Public Instruction. “But we recognize that there are children who do carry this burden, and we need them to know that school can be a stable force in their lives.”

“Our job is to help every child reach his and her fullest potential,” Reykdal continued. “It’s incredibly difficult for a child to succeed if basic needs are not being met. Compared to students with stable housing, homeless students are more likely to miss school or drop out entirely.”

The four-year graduation rate for homeless students in the Class of 2016 was 53.2 percent; for all students, it was 79.1 percent.

McKinney-Vento also requires districts to record the general area in which a homeless student sleeps:

  • “Doubled-up” – sleeping in someone else’s house;
  • Hotel/Motel;
  • Shelter;
  • Unsheltered (for example, a car, park or campground)

In 2015-16, three out of four homeless students listed “doubled-up” – sleeping in someone else’s house – as the most common type of homelessness.

Specific reasons for the increase in homeless students are difficult to determine at the state level. Many community factors – lack of affordable housing options, unemployment or under-employment, available local services – may contribute. In addition, economic recessions typically hit the poorest people the longest.

McKinney-Vento ensures that homeless children have access to “the same free, appropriate public education, including a public school education, as provided to other children and youths.”

As defined by the law, a student is homeless if he or she lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.

Recently passed state law also provides support for homeless students. In 2016 the state Legislature passed the Homeless Student Stability and Opportunity Gap Act (3SHB 1682). The act’s goal is to provide support to students experiencing homelessness, particularly unaccompanied homeless youth.

One provision of the act created the State Homeless Student Stability Program, which provides supports and resources for the education of homeless students. A total of $785,000 is being awarded for the remainder of 2016-17 to 38 school districts and one charter school. The funds will be used for a variety of programs, such as professional development for staff and partnerships with community-based organizations.

In addition to the State Homeless Student Stability Program funds, Washington receives about $950,000 per year through McKinney-Vento. The money, given to districts in the form of competitive grants, goes to districts with the greatest need.

The money can be used for a variety of activities for homeless students, including:

  • helping to defray the excess cost of transportation;
  • tutoring, instruction and enriched educational services;
  • supplies and materials; and
  • early childhood education programs.

Districts that do not receive McKinney-Vento grant funding can use Title I or other state or federal funding sources to support the educational needs of homeless students.

All districts are required to have a homeless liaison, who is tasked with identifying, enrolling and setting up services for homeless students.