The number of public school students experiencing homelessness in the US has increased 15% in the past three years, reaching its highest number in more than a decade.
More than 1.5 million students reported experiencing homelessness during the 2017-18 school year, according to a study by the National Center for Homeless Education, with California at the forefront with 263,000 students.
The 2017-18 number was the highest number that the NCHE has reported since it began tracking this data in 2004, George Hancock, the center director, told the Guardian. “We’re seeing it throughout the country,” he said.
The majority of homeless students, whose ages range from pre-kindergarten at age 3 to grade 12 at age 18 or older, reported that they were forced to stay with friends or relatives due to loss of their primary housing or economic hardship. More than 182,000 students reported living in shelters, transitional housing or were awaiting foster care – a 2% decrease from previous years.
However, the number of students living in unsheltered situations, such as on the streets, spiked by 137% to more than 102,000 in the past three years.
The new homeless student count reflects a much more serious uptick in the homeless population than that of the US Department of Housing and Urban and Development’s 2019 point-in-time estimates, which adheres to a different definition of what constitutes homelessness. The 2019 annual homeless assessment reported that the homeless population increased nationwide by 3% to more than 567,000, with more than 107,000 under the age of 18.