Educators Face Rising Homeless Student Population

By Mary Ellen Flannery

April 5, 2010 — Tough economic times means increasing numbers of homeless children and students.

You can’t practice the violin in a homeless shelter. Not really, not if you don’t want to wake the babies—and you don’t want to wake the babies. That’s something 14-year-old Chauncey learned last year during the months she and her family spent at a family shelter in Northern Virginia.

Another thing you can’t always do: Sleep.

Chauncey’s big sister Chassity, a young poet, strictly prefers to sleep at night and dream during creative writing, but one morning last year, after weeks of shelter noises and nightmares, she could barely keep her head off the desk during 11th-grade English. Finally, her teacher took her aside to ask, “Is there something going on with you?”

In fact, there’s something going on with a lot of kids in America. In 2007, nearly 800,000 homeless children were enrolled in public schools—up 17 percent from the year before, according to the U.S. Department of Education. This year, as unemployment and foreclosures continue to rise, the rate of homelessness is expected to follow the same grim climb.

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