This week, 16-year-old Joey will sleep in a soft bed, take a warm shower and have a place to keep his belongings. He’ll then make his way to our school where he is catching up on credits and hopes to graduate soon. For most of the past year, he has experienced homelessness – couch surfing when he could, and on the streets when he couldn’t. And Joey isn’t alone.

More than one million school-age children are homeless in the United States, according to the Department of Education. But experts say that number is likely far higher — and will only grow as pandemic-era emergency funds continue to dry up. Keeping these students in school is challenging and made worse because students without secure, consistent housing are twice as likely to be suspended.

“If a student doesn’t know where they are going to sleep at night or get a meal, they’re certainly not going to be ready to tackle algebra,” said Chris Hodge, chief academic officer.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of students who are experiencing homelessness – along with the traumas and mental health challenges that comes with unstable housing.”

Hodge said that in some regions, we have seen an increase of 35 percent of students experiencing housing insecurity, up from the previous year. In response, we have:

-Increased the number of school counselors and school social workers to assist students with needed services and programs in their local areas.

-Increased partnerships with local service organizations to find ways to help provide temporary housing and other resources for students.

-Certified teachers in a trauma-resilient approach to supporting students, and handling issues with dignity and respect. A trauma-resilient education model emphasizes treating symptoms of trauma or stress as opportunities to teach life skills. Our suspension rate among students experiencing homelessness is nearly non-existent, compared to Michigan’s average of eight percent and Ohio’s average of 11.2 percent.

“There are wonderful community organizations we partner with to help our students with housing, healthcare and basic needs. Our counseling team knows how to arrange motel vouchers, enroll in housing programs, arrange workforce training/employment, food, clothes, hygiene and transportation,” added Hodge.

Hodge notes that with an intensive focus on the needs of students experiencing homelessness, along with a personalized education, all students can flourish. “We do everything we can to keep these challenged students in school. They will have a far better outcome if they receive available services and earn their diploma,” he added.

Written By:
Ann Abajian