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Learn the truths about student homelessness and what Arizona teachers can do. In the 2013-14 school year, more than 1.3 million American students were homeless. This number is a staggering 100-percent increase from the 2006-07 year, according to the report Hidden in Plain Sight: Homeless Students i

Feb 09, 2017

Learn the truths about student homelessness and what Arizona teachers can do.


In the 2013-14 school year, more than 1.3 million American students were homeless. This number is a staggering 100-percent increase from the 2006-07 year, according to the report Hidden in Plain Sight: Homeless Students in America’s Public Schools.

Consider these facts from the study, conducted between October 2015 and February 2016 of homeless youth and more than 500 liaisons across the country.

  • 78 percent were homeless a few times or more.

  • 50 percent slept in a car, park, abandoned building, bus station, or other public place.

  • Six in 10 formerly homeless youth say it was hard to stay in school while they were homeless.

  • 42 percent say they had at one or more points dropped out of school.

  • 54 percent of formerly homeless youth say both concrete supports (such as school supplies, transportation) and emotional factors (feeling safe, emotional support) were equally important.


While these students find it difficult to stay in school — let alone perform well — and connect with their peers, there are things teachers and liaisons can do to help.

1. Refine and standardize systems for identifying homeless students.

The first step? “Ensure that all school staff, not just McKinney-Vento liaisons and coordinators, receive adequate training so that they can assist in identifying and supporting homeless students,” the report says.

2. Focus on outreach efforts to inform homeless students and their families of their rights.

Improving rights education efforts will help make these students and their guardians more likely to seek help.

3. Actively work with students to help them stay in school.

The report suggests proactively working with students to ensure they have assignments and help when they miss school, being more flexible with grading policies, and helping them through legal issues like participating in school activities.

4. Actively work to connect homeless students to outside supports.

“Connections with caring adults beyond the walls of the school are invaluable to youth personally,” the report says. “However, young people tell us that these connections were not made nearly as frequently as they were needed.”

5. Leverage early warnings systems to prevent student homelessness.

According to the National Center for Homeless Education, warning signs can include:

  • lack of continuity in education (attendance at numerous schools, missing personal records for enrollment);

  • poor health and nutrition (missing immunizations, chronic hunger, increased vulnerability to sickness);

  • transportation and attendance problems (multiple absences, erratic tardiness, inability to contact parents);

  • poor hygiene;

  • social/behavioral concerns (poor self esteem, aggression, difficulty socializing);

  • lack of privacy and personal space after school (missing basic school supplies, loss of books or supplies, incomplete or missing homework); and

  • statements from parents or child ("I don't remember the name of our previous school"; "We've been moving around a lot"; "Our address is new; I can't remember it").

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