ABC7 Solutions: Resources available to help young students experiencing homelessness

Resources and support are available to students experiencing homelessness in Southern California so they don't fall behind in the classroom.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- There are over 67,000 identified homeless students in L.A. County schools and over 150,000 across the Southland. That number is larger than what might be expected because the definition of children and young people experiencing homelessness is described in the McKinney-Vento Act as anyone who lacks a fixed, regular, nighttime residence, even if they share housing with friends or extended family -- or might be living in motels, shelters or in some cases trailer parks.

This threshold is important because many migratory children don't consider themselves homeless and might miss out on services available to them. In fact, many teachers might not understand their student is homeless.

"A lot of them may be working with students that they know it's temporary; they're staying with auntie, or a cousin, but they don't actually make the connection that they actually qualify for additional resources," said Earl Edwards of the Black Male Institute Lab.

Edwards co-authored a study on students who graduate high school while homeless with Dr. Tyrone Howard who says, while homelessness cuts across all genders and ethnicities, young Black men are hit disproportionately hard.

"What we're finding is that there are larger numbers of Black men and Black boys and Black students in general who experience homelessness in ways that has a profound impact on their ability to be the best students that they might want to be," said Howard.

To add to the concern, data for the study was in 2018, before the pandemic.

"COVID has made this matter even worse because what we're seeing is significantly higher evictions rates, job losses that are impacting the African American community in disproportionate rates, which means that you're in all likelihood going to see an increase in the homelessness rates of students," said Howard.

Every school district is required to have a liaison who must identify homeless youth in order to provide services and support. Among the benefits:

School Stability - Homeless children can remain in their school of origin for the duration of homelessness
Academic Access and Success - This includes free meals and all other academic supports
Transportation - The district must provide transportation, which includes distance learning items

To that end, the state will distribute over 10,000 computing devices within two weeks to Southern California and the Inland Empire, specifically for students who are homeless.

"We were really fortunate to have these tablets, which are a perfect fit for the homeless student because they're small, they're easily transportable, and they have built in connectivity so wherever they are and wherever they move to, we can fulfill that need," said Mary Nicely, senior policy advisor with California Department of Education.

The sheer number of students enrolled and homeless demands that families contact their teachers and the district for the help available.

"These kids are our future. We cannot leave them without some way to continue their education," said Nicely.

"There's a lot of additional support that can be provided if you are identified, and if you also advocate for yourself because if you don't advocate, sometimes those opportunities aren't necessarily told to you or given to you when you need them," said Edwards.
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