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Student homelessness growing fastest in rural America, including rural Pennsylvania


March 1, 2019

While student homelessness is on the rise nationwide, it is growing at nearly four times the national rate in rural America, according to a new report from the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness (ICPH). The report, Student Homelessness in Rural America, finds that rural student homelessness has increased 11 percent since the 2013-14 school year, to over 162,000 students, compared to a 3 percent increase overall in homelessness nationwide.

Though the homeless student population continues to be predominantly urban, ICPH examined data from the U.S. Department of Education to understand the scope of rural student homelessness and what its rapid growth means for rural America.

The report documents the depth and breadth of the rise of homeless students residing in rural areas. Increases are widespread across 38 states. Pennsylvania is one of nine states that saw rural student homelessness grow by more than 10 percent (the other states are Maine, Illinois, Colorado, Montana, Maryland, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire). In 15 states, including Pennsylvania, the number of rural homeless students grew even as total rural student enrollment declined; in our state, homelessness among rural students increased by 14 percent, while enrollment in these areas declined by 4 percent.

In December 2018, WYPR reported that the non-profit Research for Action has concerns about the accuracy of Pennsylvania’s reporting of its homeless students; Research for Action thinks our numbers are much higher. While school districts check student lists against local shelters or other homeless service agencies, they don’t check hotels, or those who are “doubled” or “tripled up” — living with friends or family temporarily.

The Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness has found that homeless students in rural communities are disproportionately underfunded. Data shows only 42 percent of rural homeless students attend school in a district with federally allocated funding to support homeless students, compared to 67 percent of their non-rural peers.

“The first step in addressing the needs of homeless children is to ensure they are identified and counted,” said Josef Kannegaard, Principal Policy Analyst at ICPH, in a prepared statement. “Though numbers are on the rise in every region of the country, the funding has not kept pace. Understanding the local dynamics of this issue ensures that the one in eight homeless students who live in rural communities are not forgotten.”

 

For statistics about homeless students in Central Pennsylvania, see this article:

“Under the Overpass” author to speak about homelessness Nov. 10

 

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