TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The number of homeless students in Kansas public schools continues to increase, with about a thousand more homeless students last year than the previous year, according to state education officials.
The Kansas State Department of Education said nearly 10,400 homeless children attended public schools last year, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported . Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas, public schools reported increases of 45 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
Tate Toedman, the education department’s child homelessness program coordinator, said many families are taking longer to recover from homelessness.
“It’s a bigger struggle finding the jobs that pay enough, and then the affordable housing just isn’t there,” Toedman said.
The federal government requires schools to track homeless students in order to receive support and service programs that help them stay in school.
“The very fact that schools are identifying students and these kids are enrolled in school is progress,” says Barbara Duffield, policy director at the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.
Duffield said economic factors combined with improvements in school reporting contributed to the increased numbers of homeless students.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said that as of last winter, about 2,780 adults and children were homeless in Kansas. The numbers are drastically lower than the 10,400 children reported by schools because the housing department defines homelessness differently than schools.
HUD defines the homeless as individuals and families staying in homeless shelters, on the streets, in cars and other similar situations. It does not count families that move from one home to another, which accounts for three-fourths of the 1.26 million homeless children identified by U.S. public schools last year.
Duffield said even if they have roofs over their heads, children “doubling up” in other people’s homes are in unstable situations.
“It’s not different than other kinds of homelessness,” she said. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, you’re staying with your grandma, everybody’s warm, everybody’s comfortable.’ “
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