June 13, 2016
Fourteen Too Many

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.

The picture painted by Hidden in Plain Sight is one that cannot be tolerated:

  • 61% of the surveyed youth say they were never connected with any outside organization for support while homeless.
  • 67% (approx. two-thirds) say they were uncomfortable talking with people at their school about their housing situation and related challenges.
  • 50% say they slept in a car, park, abandoned building, bus station or other public place.
  • 78% of young people surveyed say homelessness was something they experienced more than once.
  • As a subgroup, homeless students are one of the lowest graduating student populations in the nation -- 42% say they dropped out of school at least once.

Unfortunately, the report also highlights the missed opportunities to help. The liaisons in charge of identifying these students and ensuring they are well-supported report they cannot do their jobs:

  • 89% say they spend just half of their time or less on their responsibilities as liaisons.
  • They cite key challenges, including lack of funding (78%), lack of time, staff and resources (57%), lack of community awareness (36%), and inability to find safe spaces for homeless students before and after school (30%).
  • Fully half of liaisons report that unaccompanied youth present a major challenge when it comes to connecting them to the services and supports they need.

As we move forward with this new insight, we will continue to work with our public and private partners to bring the number from 14 to zero. You can join this effort by signing APA's pledge to take action, because we all have a role to play in supporting students facing homelessness. We hope you will join us.