According to a recently released report, the number of homeless students living in the state of Indiana has increased dramatically over the last 5 years.
The report, put together by the Indiana Youth Institute, found 16,233 students in the state to be homeless in the 2013-14 school year — compared to five years ago, an increase of 81%.
That increase has many worried over the educational challenges these students will face.
"Anytime you see an increase like that, there's certainly cause for concern to hope that as many of those students as possible are getting the services they need to try to enhance their educational outcomes," said Glenn Augustine, interim CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute.
Across the state, 82 counties reported an increase in homeless students over the six years covered by the study. Meanwhile, 8 counties had fewer homeless students and only 2 remained unchanged.
The situation was found to be the worst in the rural areas. Jennings County, found in southern Indiana, reported the highest rate, having 84 homeless students for every 1,000 students, reports Ron Shawgo for The Journal Gazette.
"When you look at the data you'll see homelessness is everywhere. It's in urban schools, it's in suburban schools, it's in rural schools," Augustine said. "So it really knows no geographic boundaries or population boundaries. The increase in homelessness and homeless students is everywhere."
Augustine went on to say that being homeless or highly mobile can cause students to endure academic failures, which can then progress into anti-social behaviors.
"There's also an increased risk for social and emotional problems. And some of the academic failures actually follow these children into adulthood." They are more likely to repeat a grade and to have multiple behavioral problems, he added.
In an effort to help those in need, a number of institutions have taken it upon themselves to offer aid and assistance. Fort Wayne Community Schools has helped 716 students who experienced hardships last year by providing textbooks and free meals to those who need them. An additional service offering students clothing, hygiene items and school supplies has also been created, writes Robert Moore for The Monitor Daily.
According to spokesperson Krista Stockman, those students experienced homelessness in a variety of ways. While some lived in homeless shelters, others lived with various family members who had taken them in, while others lived on the streets or moved around from place to place.
Stockman went on to say that the poor state of the economy is to blame for the plight of many in Indiana, which shows no signs of improvement in the near future.
Data for the report was provided by the Indiana Department of Education. Numbers for individual school districts were not released.