Early Childhood

Head Start Data Shows Drop in Overall Homeless Enrollment During Pandemic, But Steady Increase in Rate of Homeless Enrollment

Data released by the Office of Head Start show that while the overall number of children enrolled in Head Start decreased by 28% between the 2019 and 2021 school year, the number of children experiencing homelessness in Head Start decreased by 22%. At the same time, the percentage of Head Start children identified as experiencing homelessness increased from 5.7% of total enrollment in 2019 to 6.22% of total enrollment in 2021.

Under Head Start law and regulation, Head Start and Early Head Start programs are required to proactively identify children experiencing homelessness and prioritize them for enrollment. While the overall drop in enrollment is cause for great concern, the steady rate of increase of homeless children as a percentage of all Head Start enrollment may indicate progress in efforts to prioritize the enrollment of children experiencing homelessness. During the same time period, fewer families experiencing homelessness acquired housing; this also reflects longer-term trends and challenges in finding permanent affordable housing.

Source: Office of Head Start. The full Head Start Program Information Report (PIR) data set, prior year reports, and PIR forms are available to the public on request. Contact the Head Start Enterprise System (HSES) help desk to request access.

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