During the 2017-2018 school year, 1,508,265 public school students nationwide experienced homelessness. With only 12% served by the shelter system, the vast majority of these families stay wherever they can. They are often forced to move frequently between unstable living situations—sleeping in motels, cars, trains, or temporarily staying with others. These living situations can quickly break down due to overcrowding, tensions that develop, and fear of the primary tenant losing their housing. Nearly 3 in 4 Illinois public school students experiencing homelessness are temporarily staying with others.

Federal child and youth programs recognize all forms of homelessness that children and youth might experience, characterizing doubling-up homelessness as youth “temporarily staying with others.” The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has a far more limited scope, shutting out millions of homeless children and their families nationwide from homeless assistance programs. HUD homeless assistance eligibility criteria currently excludes 1,117,144 students nationwide from accessing these essential programs and services.

Recognizing that school-age children are not the only individuals temporarily staying with others, CCH developed a model to estimate the total scope of people in these temporary, unstable living situations. These are friends or relatives outside of a typical household that cannot afford to live in housing of their own or formally contribute to household costs. With the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data, CCH’s method of estimating this form of homelessness can be used in any geographic area with a population larger than 65,000.