NPR Illinois: Homeless student numbers rise

By Maureen Foertsch McKinney

The Illinois State Board of Education reports that the number of homeless students has climbed over the last few years.

There were 53,733 homeless students counted throughout the state in fiscal year 2016. That number grew by 56,881 by the end of this fiscal year (two years later).

Julie Dworkin, director of policy for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, says it’s hard to tell why the increase occurred .

“The problem in tracking homeless people, in general, is it’s very hard to say there is evidence that the problem is growing or that it’s shrinking because there are so many factors that can impact the numbers.”

She says the numbers can be affected by how well the schools are staffed in programs for homeless students. Still — knowing the numbers can help determine what resources are needed to address the problem.

Dworkin says, for homeless students who end up moving frequently, falling behind academically is possible … and the odds of dropping out and having emotional and behavioral problems are increased.