Equal Voice News: Number of homeless (Chicago) students merits attention


Edited by Bradley Wong

The Windy City has set another record. But homeless advocates in Chicago say that the record is unacceptable – and demands attention by city leaders.

What is turning heads among advocates and residents is that the number of homeless students enrolled in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) soared by 3,475 young people to a record of 22,144 pupils during the 2013-14 academic year, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) reported.

The number of additional homeless students in Chicago marks an 18.6 percent increase compared to the 18,669 young people who lacked a permanent place to live in the 2012-13 year, CCH said in a July 24 blog post.

The organization cited statistics from CPS.

“The startling and growing numbers are not a mystery: income inequality, the critical lack of affordable housing in Chicago for families, low wages and limited job opportunities continue to challenge our communities,” Laurence Heybach, senior counsel with The Law Project at CCH, said in a statement.

“It’s a challenge that our city must step up to, or worse is yet to come.”

“(The record number) shows the vital importance of maintaining school stability when so many children and teens are already coping with unstable housing situations,” Patricia Nix-Hodes, director of The Law Project, said in the blog post.

Among the homeless student population for the 2013-14 school year, 84.4 percent of the kids and teens were African American, 12.2 percent were Latino, 1.6 percent were White and 1.6 percent were of other ethnic backgrounds, according to CCH.

Disabled students who were homeless for that year made up 20 percent of the 22,144 young people.

Of that total number, 42 percent of the homeless students, or 9,311 individuals, were in high school. For first- through third-grades, Chicago had 4,252 homeless students, who accounted for 19 percent of the total number.

Students in fourth- through sixth-grades made up 18 percent of all homeless pupils, or 3,936 kids. There were 851 homeless preschool students and 1,256 kindergarten pupils had no permanent place to live.

Also, there were 2,529 homeless seventh- and eighth-grade pupils.

Attendance ranged from 77 percent for homeless high school students to 90 percent for all other pupils in the city’s public schools.

CCH reported that 88 percent of the homeless students in Chicago – 19,506 young people – lived “doubled-up” in other people’s homes for the academic year. Those conditions can be crowded, though.

Other homeless students lived in shelters, motels, automobiles, public places or in temporary foster care.

Overall, homeless students in Chicago accounted for 5 percent of all pupils in the city’s public schools during the 2013-14 year.