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Addressing Student Homelessness: How Schools Can Help

Student homelessness is on the rise—more than 1 million students were homeless in the 2013-2014 school year alone, according to a report by Civic Enterprises and Hart Research Associates.

And, while fighting poverty may have traditionally been the provenance of local governments or charity groups, many public school districts have realized the important role they, too, can play in helping students, and their families, get back on their feet.

According to a recent video report from Education Week and the PBS Newshour, federal law requires school district leaders to identify homeless youth in their schools and pair them with a liaison tasked with coordinating enrollment, transportation, and continuing education for students.

But, as Kerry Wrenick, a liaison for Kansas City Public Schools, told the PBS Newshour recently, giving students reactive support amounts to a band-aid for a deeper, more systemic problem.

Wrenick has developed a community-wide program that focuses on getting both students and their families the help they need to confront the challenge of poverty—whether through clothing and grocery donations, work placement programs, or housing aid—so that students can concentrate on learning, rather than surviving day-to-day.

As one student who faced homelessness told PBS:

“If I’m jumping from place to place, I’m not as focused on my schoolwork. I’ve got to think about what I’m eating for the night. I’ve got to think about how my bills are going to get paid. I’ve got to think about all this extra stuff.”

Kansas City’s programs, like others across the country, aim to relieve students of the burden of homelessness, help them be successful in school, and break the cycle of poverty.

For more on how Kansas City is working to confront student homelessness, watch the full video below:

What steps are your schools taking to face poverty among students and families? What programs do you have to reduce student homelessness? Tell us in the comments.