Editor's Note: Washington's Office of Homeless Youth recently completed the state's first plan to solve youth homelessness. Casey Trupin - a program officer at the Raikes Foundation - chaired the office's advisory committee and helped shape this important new path forward for the state. He offers his thoughts on the plan and its significance in the letter below.
As Chair of the advisory committee for the Office of Homeless Youth, I am incredibly thrilled to have been part of the effort to shape and guide the development of this report.
It may be your daughter’s best friend. It may be the captain of the football team. It may be the new student who just transferred in. It may be the one who has lived in your neighborhood for as long as you can remember. What we know is that the vast majority of public schools serve at least one student experiencing homelessness. In fact, the average public school has 14 students facing this crisis.
Too often, nobody notices, meaning that the opportunity to help is delayed or lost altogether. Today, America’s Promise Alliance (APA) and Civic Enterprises released an unprecedented report, Hidden in Plain Sight: Homeless Students in America’s Public Schools, containing data from an extensive survey of formerly homeless students and educators. The report urges communities across the nation to take action to address this crisis, that we commit to a 90 percent graduation rate for students who have experienced homelessness, and that we recognize that no effort to end the dropout crisis or to achieve equity in education will be successful without fully supporting these 1.3 million students.
As with most students, when my first-grader leaves school each day she comes home to the same safe place every night. Statistics show that this is likely not the case for at least one of her classmates. One in every 32 students in Washington is identified as homeless, or roughly one per class and 15-20 students per school.
We know that at least 32,000 K-12 students experience homelessness in Washington’s public schools each year, but other reports indicate it is much higher. Roughly half of these students are adolescents in middle and high school, some living with their parents, some living on their own, some sleeping in parks and cars. In other words, at least 16,000 adolescents in our state are navigating this pivotal developmental period while wondering each day where they’ll do their homework, where they’ll sleep that night, and if they’ll be safe.