Most students eagerly count the days until summer vacation, but homeless children will lose safe havens. The Mercury News writes…
There were 220,738 homeless students attending schools in California last year. Nationwide, the number of homeless students could surpass 1 million this year for the first time, said Barbara Duffield, policy director for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.
Unlike most schoolchildren, they’re not looking forward to summer vacation, she said.
“It means a period of increased stress,” she said. “They may miss the certainty of knowing: ‘I’m going to go to school, see Mr. Smith, see my friends and be able to be a kid for eight hours. And I know I’m going to get something to eat.’ ”
Matthew and his dad aren’t sure if their friend will let them stay much longer. Although they have a temporary roof over their heads, they are considered homeless according to the definition used by school districts throughout the country, which includes anyone who lacks a regular and adequate nighttime residence, said Catherine Giacalone, who coordinates homeless education in Contra Costa County.
The number of homeless students in Contra Costa County jumped from 1,773 in 2009-10 to 2,222 last year. This year’s numbers won’t be available until July, but they are expected to rise due to the lagging economy.
“Our numbers have been increasing, unfortunately,” she said, “because so many people are losing their housing and that is increasing the number of homeless families.”
The rising numbers are an issue throughout Bay Area school districts, whether the districts are located in low-income or more affluent areas. There were 2,538 homeless students enrolled in Santa Clara County schools last year, and San Mateo County served 739 homeless students. Alameda County had a staggering 5,804 homeless students enrolled in district schools last year.
By the end of this school year, Mt. Diablo had served 534 homeless students, including 35 who were just identified this month, said James Wogan, who coordinates the district’s Homeless Outreach Program for Education, or HOPE.
“We know that there are more,” he said. “We do outreach and make sure schools know the definition of legal homelessness. We know there’s some stigma attached. They worry that they might lose their school placement. We try to make sure everybody knows their rights.”
According to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, schools must allow students to stay in the same school they attended before they became homeless and must provide transportation, supplies and other services such as tutoring.