Homelessness is on the rise among school children in the US. According to a new study released this week by the Education Department, 1.3 million homeless children were enrolled in school last year, up 8% from the previous year.
The rate of homeless children in school is growing even faster in Florida, reaching 10% this year, making Florida one of the most populated states for homeless students.
Since the beginning of the recession, the number of homeless students has increased by 85%.
Most of those children, about 75%, were living in “doubled-up” quarters, or found to be living with another family, with another 70,000 living in motels, and 190,000 in shelters. Students without a place to sleep totaled 41,635. Almost 76,000 had been identified as living alone.
“The significant increase in homeless students indicates that the recession is having a lingering effect for many children and families, and a severe lack of affordable housing in the United States is a major contributor,” Cara Baldari, senior policy director for family economics at First Focus Campaign for Children, told ThinkProgress.
The report reflects on the growing need for affordable housing in the country. While the average monthly cost for a home is around $1,000, and the average rent for an apartment is $1,100, income remains stagnate. There are currently 11.8 million renters whose total annual income does not exceed $15,000, and only 6.9 million affordable housing units.
Advocates say the report is a good indication of the need for additional support going to homeless families, not only to those who walk into shelters.
“While the economy may be coming back some, people are still having a hard time making enough money to afford and find affordable housing,” said Bruce Lesley, president of the nonprofit First Focus Campaign for Children.
As the number of homeless students is on the rise, their academic progress is falling. The percentage of homeless students who test proficient in reading and math fell from 52% in 2011 to 47% the following year in reading, and from 51% to 44% in math, although this could be due to the recent change to tougher national education standards.
“The new data means that a record number of kids in our schools and communities are spending restless nights in bed-bug infested motels and falling more behind in school by the day because they’re too tired and hungry to concentrate,” said Lesley.
Because the study does not include homeless infants, toddlers, or other children not enrolled in schools it is unknown just how many homeless children there are in the US. Others do not receive services from the Department of Housing and Urban Development because they live with another family or in a hotel, which does not correspond with the department’s criteria of homelessness.
Only about 1 million students can receive educational assistance, but not shelter, short-term housing, or help with permanent housing. Just 7,000 beds are available for unaccompanied youth, according to the National Network for Youth.