Research has shown that homeless children face a range of challenges to their health, emotional well-being, and safety, and that these challenges can affect their experiences in school.
A new analysis in the Condition of Education report explores the latest data on student homelessness in U.S. public schools. The report uses data from the Department of Education’s EDFacts collection to describe rates of student homelessness and how they vary across the country.
The analysis also describes the characteristics of the homeless student population. During the 2014–15 school year, 2.5 percent of U.S. public school students were identified as homeless, meaning that they lacked a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.
Seventy-six percent of homeless students were doubled-up or sharing housing due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or other reasons, such as domestic violence. 7 percent were living in hotels or motels, and 14 percent were living in shelters, transitional housing, or awaiting foster care placement. 3 percent were unsheltered, for example, those living in cars, parks, and abandoned buildings. 8 percent of homeless children were also categorized as unaccompanied youth, meaning that they were not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian.
This group includes runaway youth, youth who have been separated from their family due to conflict or loss of contact, and youth living with a caretaker who is not their legal guardian. 14 percent of homeless students were identified as English language learners. By comparison, 9 percent of all public school students were English language learners.
A higher percentage of homeless students are students with disabilities–17 percent–compared to 13 percent of all public school students. In 2014–15, the rate of student homelessness was highest in city districts, compared to town, rural, and suburban districts.
The rates of homelessness were lowest in the suburbs, yet these districts enrolled 422,000 homeless students. 578,000 homeless students were enrolled in city districts, while smaller numbers were enrolled in rural and town districts.
These data show that student homelessness is a challenge for communities across the country.