Did you know?

  • Pre-pandemic, an estimated 5% of children under age six in the United States experienced homelessness.
  • Sixteen percent of infants and toddlers in the U.S. live in crowded housing, which is associated with higher risk of COVID infection and is known to jeopardize development.
  • Across 24 states, approximately 9.17% of all public high school students experienced homelessness. But at least two-thirds of students who experienced homelessness were not identified as homeless by their schools.
  • Research on California students shows that homelessness is negatively associated with student learning outcomes, regardless of living arrangements. 
  • Michigan students who were currently housed, but had experienced homelessness at any point in the last eight years, were disciplined at rates even higher than their currently homeless peers, showing the long-lasting impacts of experiences of homelessness.
  • In Chicago, Black K-12 students have a one in four chance of experiencing homelessness at some point during their academic tenure.
  • Youth who access transitional housing, particularly for longer periods, experience positive outcomes related to housing, employment, education, and access to services.

Over the past few months, many new reports on children and youth homelessness, education, and related issues have been released. We highlight key findings from thirteen new reports below. [Click to jump to section] 

Early Childhood

Early Childhood Homelessness State Profiles, published by the U.S. Department of Education, June 2021. This report compiles state-by-state and national data from multiple sources from the 2018–19 school year to provide information on the extent of early childhood homelessness and the availability of federally-funded early childhood education for young children experiencing homelessness across the United States.

Key Findings:

  • In 2018-19, an estimated 1,297,513, or 5 percent, of children under age six experienced homelessness. 
  • In 2018-19, 126,665, or 10 percent, of children under age six experiencing homelessness enrolled in Head Start and Early Head Start, or programs funded with McKinney-Vento subgrants. This enrollment rate does not include children enrolled in early childhood programs that are state and locally funded.

State of Babies 2021, published by Zero to Three, April 2021. This report analyzes national and state-by-state data on the well-being of infants and toddlers.

Key Findings:

  • 2.6% of infants and toddlers experienced housing instability.
  • 16% of infants and toddlers lived in crowded housing, which is associated with higher risk of COVID infection and is known to jeopardize development. The prevalence of infants and toddlers living in crowded housing varied by state,  from a low of 6% to a high of 28%.

K-12 Homelessness

High School Students Experiencing Homelessness: Findings from the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS). This report, published by Nemours Children’s Health System in June 2021, provides estimated 30-day prevalence rates of homelessness and associated characteristics among public high school students in 24 states and 12 school districts in the United States utilizing data from the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS).

Key Findings:

  • About 509,025 students experienced homelessness across 24 states, approximately 9.17% of all public high school students in these states. At least two-thirds of students who experienced homelessness were not identified.
  • Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, and Native American/Hawaiian/Alaskan students were more likely to report homelessness than White or Asian American peers.
  • Students reporting homelessness have higher rates of victimization, including increased odds of being sexually and physically victimized, and bullied.
  • Student homelessness correlates with other problems, even when controlling for other risks. They experienced significantly greater odds of suicidality, substance abuse, alcohol abuse, risky sexual behavior, and poor grades in school.

Students Experiencing Homelessness: The Conditions and Outcomes of Homelessness Among California Students. This report, published by Learning Policy Institute in June 2021, describes the population of students experiencing homelessness in California in 2018–19 and then identifies several school- and student-level factors associated with differences in academic achievement for these students, including living arrangements, school mobility, and school discipline. The report suggests that comprehensive practice and policy strategies be implemented across multiple levels of governance to improve educational outcomes.

Key Findings:

  • Students experiencing homelessness are more than twice as likely to be chronically absent than non-homeless students, with greater rates among African American and Native American or Alaskan students.
  • Students experiencing homelessness are significantly less likely to complete high school and continue in their education, or to enroll in college the year after high school.
  • Students experiencing homelessness are more likely to change schools multiple times and to be suspended—especially students of color.
  • Homelessness was negatively associated with student learning outcomes regardless of living arrangements. Differences in achievement among students experiencing homelessness in different living arrangements were smaller than those between students experiencing homelessness as a whole and those of all students.

Recognizing Trauma: Why School Discipline Reform Needs to Consider Student Homelessness. This report, published in May 2021 by Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan, uses data from the Michigan Department of Education to explore suspension and expulsion rates among students who have experienced homelessness compared to their housed peers. The analysis finds both currently and formerly homeless students face much higher rates of disciplinary action. Policy recommendations are provided.

Key Findings:

  • Housed students who were economically disadvantaged were suspended at rates close to three times those of their housed peers who were not economically disadvantaged (11% vs. 4%, respectively), and homeless students faced even higher rates of disciplinary action (at 16%).
  • The association between homelessness and higher rates of disciplinary action persisted even after stable housing was found. Michigan students who were currently housed but had experienced homelessness at any point in the last eight years were disciplined at rates even higher than their currently homeless peers (18% vs. 16%, respectively).
  • While across all races and ethnicities the same pattern persists, with formerly homeless students facing the highest rates of suspension and expulsion, Black students are disproportionately impacted. 
  • Even very young elementary students who experienced homelessness faced high rates of suspension, with disciplinary action rates on par with high school students who had never experienced homelessness.

Known, Valued, Inspired: New Evidence on Student Homelessness. This report, by The University of Chicago Inclusive Economy Lab in conjunction with Chicago Public Schools (CPS), examines the multiple and interconnected dimensions of student homelessness in Chicago, and outlines a series of strategies to help students stay engaged in school and succeed.

Key Findings:

  • At any one time, 5 percent of CPS students experience homelessness; however, among students who have been enrolled in public school for at least four years, 13 percent experienced homelessness at some point.
  • Black students have a one in four chance of experiencing homelessness at some point during their academic tenure, while fewer than five percent of Hispanic students and two percent of White and Asian students ever experience homelessness.
  • The academic trajectories of students who experience homelessness vary across students and over time. A plurality of students persistently struggle academically, while others demonstrate resilience or declines in academic performance once identified as experiencing homelessness.
  • Trauma, family unrest, housing instability, and a lack of economic opportunity pervade and undermine students’ attempts to remain engaged in school.
  • Despite immense barriers, students experiencing homelessness value education and the experience of being in school.

Student Homelessness In Camden City School District: Mobility and Frequency 2014-15 through 2018-19. This brief, published in a collaboration between the Camden City School District (CCSD), Nemours Children’s Health System, and the Camden Coalition, uses integrated data to examine student homelessness in the city of Camden and lays out recommendations for school districts.

Key Findings:

  • Students identified as experiencing homelessness are more likely to enroll in the district late and/or leave the district before the end of the school year, resulting in about 33 fewer enrolled days.
  • Even though students experiencing homelessness exited CCSD at high rates, a greater number of students who were homeless entered the district. This resulted in greater enrollment over time.
  • Of students who experience homelessness and are enrolled in CCSD for more than one year, more than one out of five students were identified as experiencing homelessness a second time. 
  • Students who are identified as experiencing homelessness during two or more school years demonstrated challenges in staying connected to school, attending school, and progressing in school.

Higher Education

#RealCollege 2021: Basic Needs Insecurity During the Ongoing Pandemic. This report, published in March 2021 by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, analyzed findings from the Hope Center’s annual #RealCollege Survey of nearly 200,000 college students at over 200 colleges and universities in 42 states.

Key Findings:

  • In the 12 months prior to the survey, 14% of survey respondents experienced homelessness.
  • Self-identifying as homeless was approximately 10 percentage points less common than experiencing the conditions of homelessness. Most respondents experiencing homelessness—about one in 10 survey respondents overall—stayed in temporary accommodations or couch-surfed in the past year.
  • Overall, rates of homelessness were similar for two- and four-year students. 
  • Among students with experience in the foster-care system, the rate of basic needs insecurity was 21 percentage points higher than among students with no foster-care experience.

First Look at the Impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic on Undergraduate Student Enrollment, Housing, and Finances (Preliminary Data). This report, published by the National Center for Education Statistics in June 2021, documents the impact of the pandemic on student enrollment and financial stability across demographic categories and institution types.

Key Findings:

  • Overall, 27.5 percent of undergraduate students experienced a housing disruption or change: 22 percent moved back to their permanent address, 5.3 percent moved to another living situation, and 3 percent had difficulty finding safe and stable housing. 
  • The percentage of students identifying as genderqueer or gender nonconforming who said they had difficulty finding safe and stable housing was, at 9.1 percent, about three times the overall average. 

A First Look at Impacts of the College Housing Assistance Program at Tacoma Community College. This report, published in June 2021 by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, offers the initial lessons learned from the first external evaluation of The College Housing Assistance Program (CHAP), operated by the Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) and Tacoma Community College (TCC). The evaluation focused on how students experienced the program, where they faced barriers, and where they found support. 

Key Findings:

  • 62% of CHAP participants successfully completed the housing voucher application and received a voucher; 29% of CHAP participants obtained housing.
    • Students who were 30 or older were more likely to obtain housing than students younger than 30.
    • Students from all other racial/ethnic groups were more likely to obtain housing than Black students.
    • A one-unit increase in GPA increased the likelihood of obtaining housing 2.2 times. 

The Overlooked Obstacle – How Satisfactory Academic Progress Policies Impede Student Success and Equity. This report, published by John Burton Advocates for Youth in July 2021, explores the impact of Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) standards and policies on financial aid receipt and enrollment of first-year Pell Grant recipients attending a California Community College. It also offers federal, state, and institutional-level recommendations to increase equity and remove barriers to student success. 

Key Findings:

  • One in four of California’s incoming community college Pell Grant recipients are not making SAP for their first two consecutive terms, disqualifying them from continued access to most forms of financial aid without a successful appeal. 
  • Rates of SAP failure for Black students who received a Pell Grant in their first year were more than twice that of white students: 34 percent vs. 15 percent. 
  • The highest rates of SAP failure were found among students with experience in the foster care system, who had a SAP failure rate of 34 percent after their first year.
  • When disenrollment and loss of Pell Grant were examined together, just 13 percent of students who did not achieve the necessary GPA and course completion rates remained enrolled and continued to receive a Pell Grant by the start of their second year of college.

Youth Homelessness

Youth-Supportive Transitional Housing Programs As An Essential Resource for Addressing Youth Homelessness. This paper, published in June 2021 by Covenant House International, National Network for Youth, and SchoolHouse Connection, shares research demonstrating the effectiveness of transitional housing programs and argues for greater investments and wider availability of this essential housing model. 

Key Findings:

  • Youth who access transitional housing, particularly for longer periods, experience positive outcomes related to housing, employment, education, and access to services. An analysis by Covenant House International found that among 564 young people who exited transitional housing programs in 15 U.S. cities over a 12-month period:
    • 73% exited the program into stable housing; and
    • 69% were employed or enrolled in school when they left the program.
    • Youth who stayed in the program longer were more likely to exit to stable housing, and to be employed when they exited the program. 
    • Youth who identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (“BIPOC youth”) had higher rates of stable housing exits and higher rates of employment at exit (but lower rates of school enrollment). 

Untold Stories: Young Adult & Racial Dimensions of COVID-19. This report, published in June 2021 by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and Howard University, analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, which collected information during the pandemic. 

Key Findings:

  • About  5.3 million young adults ages 18-25 had little to no confidence in their (or their household’s) ability to pay the next month’s rent or mortgage; about 1.7 million had no confidence. 
  • Having postsecondary levels of education, and especially graduate levels of education, was associated with significantly lower probability of housing insecurity. Young adults with a bachelor’s or graduate degree had a 16% lower probability of reporting housing insecurity compared to peers who had not completed a high school education.
  • Black young adults reported food insecurity at about twice the rate of their White peers.
  • More than half (54%) of young adults reported symptoms indicative of anxiety or depression disorders during the pandemic. Rates of mental health difficulties among young adults significantly exceeded those of any other adult age group.

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