Published: 1/26/2021 12:01:29 AM
Addressing homelessness without a focus on child homelessness is a system failure. The interdependency of education and homelessness cannot be overstated. The greatest predictor of youth homelessness is not completing high school (Chapin Hall 2019). Youth that experience homelessness have far worse physical and mental health outcomes than their housed peers (ICPH 2017).
Nearly 4,000 homeless children and youth were identified by New Hampshire public schools during the 2018-2019 school year (NHDOE). Results of 2019-2020 (pandemic year) have not been released. What has been the educational impact of homelessness? Have all homeless students been identified and enrolled? Are they attending school regularly or disappeared? What do the data tell us? What are the needs of homeless children during this pandemic and what resources do our schools need in order to serve them? School homeless education liaisons can identify the gaps and need to be at the table. N.H. Department of Education must provide leadership to schools to ensure homeless students are identified, enrolled, and provided the educational rights and protections under federal law (McKinney-Vento Act). To do any less puts a cloak of invisibility on thousands of our children.
State, community, and education leaders must focus a light on child homelessness. Ensure future stimulus funds specifically target homeless students. Give schools resources and tools to find and support all students experiencing homelessness. We must bring thousands of homeless children out of the shadows. Their future and our future depend on seeing the invisible and giving voice to the silent.
LYNDA THISTLE ELLIOTT