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Contact: Madeline Daniels
Phone: (202) 657-0664

U.S. Hits Record Number of Homeless Students


Madeline Daniels
(202) 657-0664 (office)

Washington – Public schools reported a record number of homeless children and youth, over 1.1 million, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Education.

The 1,168,354 homeless students enrolled by U.S. preschools and K-12 schools in the 2011-2012 school year is the highest number on record, and a 10 percent increase over the previous school year. The number of homeless children in public schools has increased 72 percent since the beginning of the recession.

Under federal law, school districts are required to immediately enroll homeless children and youth. The law also requires that, when in their best interest, schools ensure that homeless students stay in the same school when forced to move. Every school district must also designate a homeless student liaison to provide assistance and referrals. Without a safe place to call home, children and youth can’t focus in school and struggle to excel. Resources such as runaway and homeless youth programs also assist homeless youth in completing high school and help them enter college.

The U.S. Department of Education statistics underestimate the number of homeless children in the United States. The data not include homeless infants and toddlers, young children who are not enrolled in public preschool programs, and homeless children and youth who were not identified by school officials.

43 states reported school year-to-year increases in the number of homeless students, with 10 states reporting increases of 20 percent or more. States with the largest increases in the numbers of homeless students were Maine (58 percent), Michigan (42 percent), North Carolina (53 percent), North Dakota (212 percent), South Dakota (35 percent), Vermont (31 percent), and Wyoming (40 percent). The four states with the largest numbers of homeless students were California, New York, Texas, and Florida.

Not all of the children included in the data are recognized as “homeless” by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). As a result, some homeless children are eligible for educational assistance through local schools, but not help from HUD.

The data release comes just weeks after new Census data revealed 16.1 million children, or 21.8 percent, live in poverty in the United States.

The Census data also showed that federal investments in children, which some in Congress have proposed to cut in budget debates, have helped keep kids out of poverty and at a much lower risk for homelessness.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program reduced childhood poverty in 2012 by 1.67 million kids.
Investments in children’s health coverage such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program are responsible for reducing the number of uninsured kids to 6.6 million.
In response to the data, leading advocates for homeless children released the following statements:

“Headlines are filled with indicators that the economy is improving, but the record numbers of homeless students show that children and their families are still feeling the effects of a tough economy,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization. “We can protect our homeless children by protecting investments in their housing, education, nutrition, and health in upcoming federal budget debates.”

“In light of this alarming increase in the number of homeless children and youth in our public schools, we call on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to re-prioritize efforts to end family homelessness, and in doing so to break down the definitional barriers that all too often prevent homeless children, youth, and families from receiving housing assistance,” said Jeremy Rosen, Policy Director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. “We also call on Congress to provide a significant funding increase for the U.S. Department of Education’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program, so that our public schools can ensure that homeless students are immediately enrolled, and promptly provided with transportation and other services as required under the McKinney-Vento Act.”

“Children and youth who are homeless struggle with hunger, trauma, and illness; they move frequently and fall behind in school,” said Barbara Duffield, Policy Director of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. “Yet education is the surest path out of poverty. If we wish to prevent another generation of children from becoming homeless adults, we must meet their basic needs and ensure a stable, supportive school environment.”

“These numbers are devastating, but sadly, entirely predictable,” said Ruth White, Executive Director, National Center for Housing and Child Welfare. “This report simply provides more evidence that the federal government has abandoned its commitment to fill yawning gaps in affordable housing options for low income families. The consequences reach far beyond housing, beyond education, and into the job market. This alarming trend could be easily reversed by prudent investments in federal housing policy that help families make ends meet.”

“Children and youth who are homeless suffer and this data confirms what the homeless youth field has been seeing on the ground, the number of homeless youth and families in need of housing and services has been increasing as local and state supports have decreased,” said Darla Bardine, Policy Director of the National Network for Youth. “Congress needs to act with urgency in scaling up the housing, care and support these children and youth need to succeed.”

The data released by the U.S. Department of Education are available on the website of the National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) at NCHE is the U.S. Department of Education’s technical assistance and information provider in the area of homeless education.

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First Focus is a bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families a priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit

NAEHCY is a national grassroots membership association dedicated to ensuring the school enrollment, attendance, and overall success for children and youth whose lives have been disrupted by the lack of safe, permanent and adequate housing. For more information, see

The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty’s mission is to prevent and end homelessness by serving as the legal arm of the nationwide movement to end homelessness. To achieve its mission, the organization pursues three main strategies: impact litigation, policy advocacy, and public education. The Law Center strives to place homelessness in the larger context of poverty.

The National Center for Housing and Child Welfare (NCHCW) links housing resources and knowledge to child welfare agencies in order to improve family functioning, prevent family homelessness, and reduce the need for out-of-home placement. NCHCW also brings housing resources to child welfare agencies in order to ensure that older youth in foster care have a connection to permanent family as well as a solid plan for stable housing and services to help them be successful as adults.

The National Network for Youth (NN4Y), founded in 1974, is the nation’s leading network of homeless and runaway youth programs. The Network champions the needs of runaway, homeless, and other disconnected youth through strengthening the capacity of community-based services, facilitating resource sharing, and educating the public and policy makers. NN4Y members serve over 2.5 million youth annually across the country, working collaboratively to prevent youth homelessness and the inherent risks of living on the streets, including exploitation, human trafficking, criminal justice involvement, or getting killed on the streets. For more information about the National Network for Youth, visit