Photos by Iris Schneider, printed in EDSOURCE SPECIAL REPORT October 2, 2017.
According to Georgetown University Center on the Workforce, by 2018 – just two years shy of the federal goal of ending youth homelessness – only 10% of jobs created will be open to those without a high school degree. Twenty-eight percent of jobs will be open to those with a high school degree. The rest will require some college education. (What Works to End Youth Homelessness by National Network for Youth 2016, pg 21)
The number of homeless students at LA Unified grew by 50 percent last year to 17,258 students — the highest number recorded by the district. At the beginning of the year, families are asked to complete a Student Residency Questionnaire. Students are considered homeless if they answer that they live in a shelter, a motel or hotel, car or RV, at a campsite, in transitional housing, or temporarily with another family. All LACOE school districts, including LA Unified, have homeless liaison’s who provide homeless students basic necessities that might be difficult for families who do not have secure housing to provide like backpacks, hygiene kits, and school supplies.
But homeless students face many challenges that may serve as a barrier to their educational success. Homeless students typically have high rates of absences from school, usually because families do not have easy access to transportation or because families are moving around a lot. And homelessness is traumatic in and of itself, creates stress which interferes with learning, not to mention that it poses significant challenges to the ability to find a place for quality study time. In school, homeless children face daunting challenges and need social services and academic help perhaps more than any other subgroup. Faced with extreme poverty, stress and just plain exhaustion, those children are far more likely to struggle academically and drop out of school than their peers.
To break the cycle of poverty these students must be supported to continue their education to at minimum receive a high school degree and encouraged to attend college.