School Year 2016-2017 Data shows a Majority of Students Experiencing Homelessness Sharing Housing of Others But Unsheltered Numbers Increasing

March 27, 2019

Last month, the National Center for Homeless Education released the federal data summary of Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) data for school years 2014-15 to 2016-17 . The number of students enrolled in public school districts and reported by state educational agencies (SEAs) as experiencing homelessness at some point during School Year (SY) 2016-17 was 1,355,821 - an increase of 7.3% or approximately 92,500 students over a three-year period.

This data is not intended to capture the entire prevalence of homelessness among children and youth, as it only includes those students who are enrolled in public school districts or Local Education Agencies (LEAs). Nor does the data reflect changes in the living situations of students experiencing homelessness over the course of the school year. It’s important to recognize that living situations and service needs of people experiencing homelessness are not static. For instance, a student that is unsheltered on the day they are identified by their local homeless education liaison may be in shelter or sharing the housing of others the next day.

But the data does tell us that almost every community is facing significant and increasing challenges when it comes to the housing needs of families with children and youth. And it reinforces the urgent need for a range of affordable housing options in every community, including both options that are provided through the private market and through publicly subsidized programs.

Summary of Data

  • The majority – 76% - of students experiencing homelessness were sharing housing with others due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason.
  • The shared housing category represents the largest numeric increase, with an increase of nearly 67,000 students (a 7% increase) since the 2014-15 school year.
  • Nearly 14% of students were in shelters, transitional housing, or awaiting foster care placement; more than 6% of students were in hotels/motels; and nearly 4% were unsheltered.
  • The unsheltered category represents the largest percentage increase, with an increase of more than 27% (10,700 students since the 2014-15 school year).
  • Among sub-groups of students identified as experiencing homelessness, unaccompanied youth increased by 25% compared to the 2014-15 school year.
  • In 28 states, unaccompanied youth comprise 10% or more of the total population of students identified as experiencing homelessness.

The data also highlights the disparities in academic achievement impacting students experiencing homelessness and reinforces what we know about the increased likelihood of chronic absenteeism and school mobility among students experiencing homelessness. In addition to the federal data summary, state-level data and local education agency data are also available.

Looking Ahead

Data is critical to understanding and responding to homelessness and housing needs in our communities. As we describe in our recently updated Navigating Homelessness and Housing Needs Data: Tailoring and Driving Local Solutions resource, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and it is important to remember that the living situations of households experiencing homelessness are not static. We have to respond to what we’re learning through the data from different programs with urgent action – actions we’ve identified and detailed in Home, Together, the federal plan to prevent and end homelessness.

As we make clear in the very first objective of the plan, that means continuing to work together across federal, state, and local government, and across the public and the private sector. Over the next year, working closely with the Department of Education and our Council Chair, ED Assistant Secretary Frank Brogan, USICH and its member agencies will continue to work to strengthen partnerships between education and homelessness services, providing communities with the range of tools needed to respond to the different needs of families with children and youth identified as experiencing homelessness. This includes lifting up models of school and housing partnerships , for example. And promoting  opportunities for innovation, like 100-day challenges to end youth homelessness that focus on educational outcomes or the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program , where local liaisons in demonstration communities are receiving targeted technical assistance and guidance to be more fully integrated as part of a coordinated community plan to prevent and end youth homelessness.

The first objective of the plan also emphasizes the role of data in helping communities to understand how best to target and scale interventions, track results, plan strategically, and allocate resources at the state and local level. With comprehensive data at the center of collaborative decision-making processes, communities can stretch the resources they have further, understand where new resources are needed, target prevention efforts, and get better results. That’s why understanding the EHCY data and what it tells us is a critical part of the work.

The increase, for example, in the percentage of students identified during the 2016-17 school year experiencing unsheltered homelessness highlights the importance of comprehensive and coordinated outreach and engagement, and it raises questions about opportunities to strengthen prevention efforts, especially with public systems, like schools, early childhood care providers, and other educators – including higher education. Over the next year, we’ll be working with national partners engaged with communities to test a school-based prevention model intended to reduce the risk of homelessness from occurring in the first place.

Similarly, the overwhelming percentage of students identified as experiencing homelessness who are doubled-up due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason, reinforces the urgent need for a range of housing options that are affordable at all income levels, including for households exiting homelessness. Our recent guidance provides communities with tools to align local efforts to address the affordable housing crisis and prevent and end homelessness, and we will continue to prioritize this critical area of work over the coming months.

As always, thanks for your unwavering commitment and for your continued partnership with USICH.

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