The Raw Reality of Student Homelessness in the United States

homeless boy

Homeless—Adjective: without a permanent home.

The Homeless—Noun: refers collectively to all people without a permanent home.

Homelessness—Noun:  the state of being without a permanent home.

Homelessness across the United States

Map of the United States, where student homelessness is a growing problem.
Image: Shutterstock

In every state across our nation, and in every country around the world, homelessness exists. Whether by choice or not, being homeless affects people of all ages, races, religions, genders, and nationalities. Often, when people think of homelessness, an image of an adult comes to mind. But the truth is, there are many homeless children in the world, too.

What happens when a student is homeless? Teachers and schools can only do so much, especially when homelessness is suspected without proof. Students who are homeless may miss many days of school, or they may be present every single day if only for the warmth and food. They have no home computer to complete assignments on, and staying “organized” can be impossible. Especially in the winter, when temperatures drop, they may get sick more often or miss out on sleep at night. They’ll no doubt be hungrier than the well-off student, and school may not be a top priority when they are wondering where they will sleep that night and if they’ll get to eat.

There are some states where student homelessness is a bigger problem, and they’re probably not the states you’d expect. These 10 states have the highest growth rates of student homelessness (that was tracked) in the U.S. from the 2010-2011 academic year to the 2011-2012 academic year:

  1. North Dakota – 212% growth, equaling out to a total of 2,712 homeless students in the state.
  2. Maine – 58% growth, from 991 to 1,564 homeless students.
  3. North Carolina – 53% growth, equaling around 28,000 homeless students in the state.
  4. Michigan – 42% growth, bringing the number up to an astounding 43,418.
  5. Wyoming – 40% growth, with 1,173 total students homeless in the state.
  6. South Dakota – 35% growth, bringing the total up to 2,542.
  7. Vermont – 31% growth, meaning 1,202 kids were homeless.
  8. Idaho – 27% growth, totaling 6,076 homeless students in the state.
  9. Missouri – 23% growth, meaning 24,549 students were homeless last year.
  10. 10. Oklahoma – 22% growth, bringing the number of homeless students up to 21,325.

    homeless boy

    Student homelessness is a growing problem across the U.S.
    Image: Shutterstock

Many of these states were hit particularly hard by the recession. And while some have good resources, others do not. And in places like South Dakota, the homelessness rate has grown by over 400% in the past decade.

“A lot of people think of homeless people as drunks or drug users, but sometimes it’s just a series of events we didn’t see coming,” said Michelle Verdier, a mother of a homeless teen in Michigan. “We always thought we could dig ourselves out, but not this time.”

Clearly, homelessness is a growing problem—and one that needs desperately to be addressed. Read this article on Take Part to see what you can do to help resolve student homelessness.

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