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February 1, 2022

Research Alert / Identifying Gaps in Support for Homeless Students

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    Photo of elementary students eating at a cafeteria table
    Credit: SDI PRODUCTIONS / iSTOCK
      Identifying and helping students who experience homelessness is a serious challenge for many school districts. A recent report analyzing survey data from the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System across 24 states indicated that two-thirds of homeless high school students who disclosed their status on the YRBSS survey/research weren't identified by their state agencies as homeless youth. Nearly 30 percent were untracked by their school districts.
      Homeless teens may not report their status for many reasons, including fear of child welfare agency involvement, stigma, or shame. However, if schools are not aware of these youth's status, as the report suggests, they cannot provide supports and resources to help them. In addition, homeless high school students are more at risk for many negative behaviors and situations. According to YRBSS school district data, homeless students were more than twice as likely to be bullied and have poor academic performance, three times as likely to be sexually victimized, and four times as likely to be physically victimized as their non-homeless peers. They were more than twice as likely to die by suicide.
      The report recommends schools and states advocate to improve systems and policies for identifying and serving students who experience homelessness, including providing mental health services, counseling, and legal assistance. In addition, the authors suggest school leaders and policymakers adopt a strengths-focused framework that considers that many homeless students "demonstrate resilience and adaptation" and that explores the social supports, close relationships, and important systems of care that homeless youths have developed—or may need.
      References

      Hatchimonji, D. R., Flatley C. A., Treglia, D., & Cutuli, J. J. (2021). High school students experiencing homelessness: Findings from the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS). Nemours Children's Health System.

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