Every single school in JCPS is impacted by homelessness or housing insecurity
By Toni Konz Tatman | JCPS Communication
It’s a number that many people are not familiar with – one in every 20 students in Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) is homeless or faces housing insecurity each year.
Last year, that number equated to 5,172 students, but district officials believe that number is actually much higher.
“This number does not really give you a good idea of the dimension and the scope of the situation that we are experiencing in our city because our data depends on families that are willing to share with us their housing situation,” said Giselle Danger, the district’s Homeless Education coordinator. “And sometimes that topic is very difficult for families to share.”
The Jefferson County Board of Education will formally recognize November as National Homeless Youth Awareness Month at its Nov. 12 meeting in an effort to bring attention to the prevalence of homeless youth within JCPS and create an awareness of the challenges faced by students experiencing homelessness.
Homeless youth face many challenges in their education.
Research has shown that homeless students are eight times more likely to be asked to repeat a grade. In addition, homeless families move two to three times during a school year, which greatly affects a homeless student’s academic achievement.
“Every time a student has to move from school to school due to housing, they lose four to six months of academic content,” Danger said. “So imagine when a family or a student has to move two or three times. This can be something that can impact their education for the rest of their lives.”
The federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act was passed in the late 1980s and is the only major federal legislation that addresses homelessness. It provides funding for a range of services, but in order to qualify, families or a student must identify.
Under the law, a homeless student is defined as one who is sharing housing due to economic hardship; living in a motel, trailer, campground, shelter or other inappropriate place like a car or park; awaiting foster care; without a parent or guardian; or abandoned in a hospital.
Every single school in JCPS is impacted by homelessness, Danger says.
“There isn’t one school in our district that does not have a family who wasn’t impacted by housing insecurity during the last school year,” she said. “This is an issue that affects everyone.”
The JCPS Office of Accessibility and Opportunity within the Department of Diversity, Equity and Poverty works tirelessly throughout the year to identify and provide numerous supports to students and their families who qualify for services under McKinney-Vento.
“We do understand that many times they might think if they let us know they are experiencing housing instability or homelessness that we have to call Child Protective Services, but that is definitely not the case,” Danger said. “We work with families. We know that the main reason why so many of our families are facing housing instability is because of lack of affordable housing and not anything else. We are here to support families and we want to let them know that we will meet them where they are.”
Throughout the month of November, Danger's office will be sharing information with the public about housing insecurity and homelessness in JCPS. Every school in the district has a liasion that is trained to help students and their families.
For Questions or Help:
- Contact your school’s homeless education liaison.
- Contact the JCPS Office of Access and Opportunity at 502-485-3650 or send an email.
If you would like to join the JCPS Adopt-a-Family Project, which helps provide gifts and other needed items for homeless students and their families this holiday season, please fill out this sponsor form.
This article was originally published on Nov. 4, 2019.