From our Community
Educating America’s Homeless Youth
Two million American children live in poverty Two million. That’s two million children who struggle just to survive. Who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, or where they’ll sleep tonight. That is right there are many starving children in America.
These children are ten times more likely to die than their non-homeless counterparts. Making it to adulthood is no guarantee of long-term survival and, without an education, they have little hope of clawing their way out of poverty.
A recent study found that most homeless children feel unable to tell anyone about their situation. As a society we are happy to overlook them, to pretend they are not there, and are complicit in the high dropout rates and academic underperformance that will condemn them to a lifetime of poverty.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (2015) is a step in the right direction and increases the focus on homeless youths. It requires schools to report their progress separately to the rest of the student body, placing a greater burden of responsibility on educators and ensuring they are invested in the success and progress of homeless students.
Programs like the Community Transitional School (CTS) in Portland go one step further still. Catering exclusively to homeless children and those in unstable living conditions, it educates these vulnerable youngsters for up to seven years, regardless of where their parents live. This gives the children some stability, and means that they are not constantly rotating between school districts as their families move from one temporary shelter to the next.
Incredibly, when CTS began in 1990, the Portland authority denounced it, going so far as to challenge its legality on racial discrimination grounds (a high proportion of the students were Black or Latino). Thankfully that challenge failed, but the fact that this valuable project has had to fight hostility demonstrates just how little understood the challenges facing homeless children are. It seems incredible that, in 2016, we are still unwilling to help some of America’s most vulnerable children receive a basic education.