Michigan facing growing number of homeless children


Despite a pickup in the economy, a rising number of children across the state find themselves without a home.

The Detroit News recently profiled this pattern, noting that the number of homeless children climbed 66 percent in 2010-11, to more than 37,500 students across the state, according to data provided by the state Department of Education.

Federal law defines homeless children as those who lack “a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.” That can include staying in someone else’s home.

Homelessness can affect students in a number of ways, including making it difficult to keep up with school work and stay focused on learning.

“Sleeping in a warm place, having something to eat; these are often priorities for the homeless,” said Mike Barlow, curriculum director and a liaison officer in the Hazel Park School District, told the News. “Is it any wonder that school work and lessons might be of a lesser priority?”

 

Hazel Park has 33 students who are homeless, which is an increase from 22 last year, according to Barlow. During the 2009-10 school year, 22,673 students in Michigan were considered homeless, while nationally that number reaches more than 1 million, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The number of children living without a home across the country rose 57 percent since 2007, according to an article in Business Insider.

The Detroit News article profiled several teenage students, all of whom said they either don’t tell people at school about their homelessness or let a few friends know what’s going on.

“A lot of people think of homeless people as drunks or drug users, but sometimes it’s just a series of events we never saw coming,” said Michelle Verdier, a mother of one of the teens, said in the Detroit News article. “We always thought we could dig ourselves out, but not this time.”

There is federal support for homeless students, including requiring that school districts appoint liaisons so students receive services.

Federal funding for homeless students is available through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, with Michigan receiving $2.3 million in 2011.

That equated to $40.47 per homeless student, but with the increase in the number of homeless and flat funding, the support in 2012 dwindled to $21.02 per student, according to the article.

Funding for the 2013-14 school year is expected to be cut 5 percent because of the federal budget sequester.