Newsletter (November 30, 2023)

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November is Native American Heritage Month!

450,000 Native American students attend U.S. public schools. These students face significantly higher rates of homelessness. According to the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, American Indian high school students are 4.7 times more likely to experience homelessness than White youth. Native students who also identify as LGBTQ, or Two Spirit, are at even higher risk of experiencing homelessness. 

📊Explore data from the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Identification Challenges

Nationally, in the 2021-2022 school year, 1.9% of students experiencing homelessness identified by public schools were Native students, and 5.4% of students attending Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools were identified as experiencing homelessness. While these homeless identification rates are higher than the overall national homeless identification rates (2.3% of public school students experienced homelessness in 2021-22), they almost certainly represent significant under-identification. Additional data highlights some of the challenges of identification:

  • Tribally-operated Region X Head Start and Early Head Start programs report identifying 7.44% of their children ages 0-5 as experiencing homelessness, whereas BIE schools are not reporting any young children experiencing homelessness at all.
  • Nearly 92% of BIE students identified as experiencing homelessness were staying temporarily with others (“doubled-up”); these homeless situations are more hidden and difficult to identify.
  • Families living on reservations are also five times more likely to live in substandard housing than non-Native families.

To address these challenges, SchoolHouse Connection is partnering with BIE schools, State Education Agencies, and school districts to increase identification, training, and awareness. 

Addressing the Crisis & Recommendations

1. Check your Data: How many Native students experiencing homelessness attend schools in your district or state? SchoolHouse Connection’s Child & Youth Homelessness Data Profiles are a good place to start accessing this data, which you can then use to assess the specific needs of Native students and families.

2. Utilize American Rescue Plan-Homeless Children & Youth Funds (ARP-HCY) to meet the needs of Native students experiencing homelessness. This could include partnering with Native-led community-based organizations to provide academic tutoring, basic needs, and social-emotional supports, specifically designed to meet the needs of Native students and their families.

3. Continue to Build Cultural Awareness: According to the National Indian Education Association (NIEA), 61% of teachers in majority-Native schools are white, so it is important for educators and other school administrators to understand the unique history of Native students and how best to serve them. NIEA, in partnership with the National Educators Association (NEA) developed Native Nations and American Schools: the History of Natives in the American Education System to help educators understand the tumultuous and precarious relationship between Native communities and the American education system.

Our scholar, Jordan, an Alaskan Native, says:

“Being homeless is such a life changing experience — one that I never wish upon even those who have forsaken me. Being young and native Alaskan created a whole new playing field….Native corporations have so many different departments and connections created just for those who are homeless, but these resources are barely talked about. My family learned about these resources by chance.”


SHC Scholar

🗣 Highlighting Native Voices: Serving Native Students Experiencing Homelessness in Montana

Irene Augare, Director of the Parent Community Outreach Program of Browning Public Schools (Montana) shares a message on serving native students experiencing homelessness & the impact of strengthening cultural connections with Blackfeet Nation. Through multi-generation approaches grounded in respect and trust, her team is able to offer wraparound services to these families and work to break cycles on homelessness in her district. 

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