OLYMPIA, Wash. — For the sixth year in a row, the number of homeless students in Washington state has increased.
Numbers released recently by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction show that 30,609 students were counted as homeless. The number is an 11.8 percent increase from 2011-12 and a 47.3 increase from 2007-08.
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Collecting and reporting homeless numbers is a requirement of the federal McKinney- Vento Act, which applies to all homeless children and youth.
Specific reasons for the increase are difficult to determine at the state level. Many community factors – such as lack of housing options, a major employer moving out of a region, the local job market – may contribute.
The lack of a stable home puts tremendous pressure on homeless students. Mobility rates are higher than students in homes, absentee rates are higher, health problems are more prevalent and graduation rates are lower.
McKinney-Vento defines a student as homeless if he or she lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. In practical terms, the student is classified as homeless if he or she lives in:
• Emergency or transitional shelters;
• Motels, hotels, trailer parks or camping grounds;
• Shared housing due to loss of housing or economic hardship;
• Hospitals secondary to abandonment or awaiting foster care placement;
• Cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing or similar situations; or
• Public or private places not ordinarily used as sleeping accommodations for human beings.
Districts are required to annually report their homeless student numbers based on the McKinney-Vento definition.
Washington state receives about $950,000 per year from the federal government to help homeless students. That money is given to districts in the form of competitive grants, with money going to districts with the greatest need.
Homeless students in Washington state