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San Diego County Sees Increase In Number Of Homeless Students

Homeless_students_still.jpg
San Diego County Sees Increase In Number Of Homeless Students
San Diego County Sees Increase In Number Of Homeless Students
San Diego County Sees Increase In Number Of Homeless Students GUESTS:Karen Alexander, homeless liason, San Diego County Office of EducationJim DiCenzo, family program manager, Father Joe's Village
San Diego Unified Sees Large Increase In Number Of Homeless Students
The number of homeless children at San Diego city schools has nearly doubled since last year. Aid groups say they are limited by the Department of Housing and Urban Development's definition of homelessness.

It's hard enough to get into the rhythm of a new school year, without having to wonder where your family will be spending the night. The number of homeless children enrolled in public school has risen 8 percent in the last school year to approximately 1.3 million, according to the National Center for Homelessness Education.

California remains the state with the largest population of homeless children with nearly 270,000 enrolled in the 2012-2013 school year.

San Diego County is also seeing an increase. According to San Diego County’s Office of Education over 20,000 school-aged children in the county identified their family as being homeless during the 2012-2013 school year. That’s up from 17,457 the previous school year and 15,826 in the 2010-2012 school year.

Since 2008 the number of homeless students in our region has continued to climb. Karen Alexander, homeless liaison for the San Diego County Office of Education points to the lingering effects of the recession and housing collapse as a contributing factor.

“Without having access to employment and affordable housing it’s become more of an issue across different socio-economic backgrounds,” she said.

Each of San Diego County’s 42 school districts has in place a homeless liaison who works to identify families who may need assistance with getting their student to school.

The homeless liaison determines what resources are needed to help the student succeed. It can include transportation to school, before and after school programs, or simply a quiet place to study.

According to the National Center on Family Homelessness children who are homeless are eight times more likely to be asked to repeat a grade; three times more likely to be placed in special education classes and twice as likely to score lower on standardized tests.

The San Diego Unified School District said about 3,000 students classified as homeless attended school last year. This year that number has grown to 5,448.

Vanessa Peters is the director of San Diego Unified’s Children and Youth in Transition Department that helps homeless children.

“This has been our busiest year ever with requests for support," she said. "And I think we’re seeing homeless throughout the district, in areas like Scripps Ranch, where we didn’t think about it, where families that were living in a normal situation — or what you would call normal — being able to pay their rent and meet expectations each month are no longer able to do that.”

St. Vincent de Paul reported serving 703 families last year. They included 1,483 children, 40 percent of who were younger than 5, a spokesman for the charity announced Wednesday.

The number of homeless youths cared for by St. Vincent's has been steady in recent years, mainly because its family rooms are typically full, said Bill Bolstad, the group's vice president of capital development.

Numbers only would have fluctuated a little bit over the years depending on the size of families being served, he said.

Bolstad said he noticed a recent trend in which the number of homeless families with teenagers jumped. The 40 teens now at the village are more than he's seen "in a really long time," he said.

City News Service contributed to this report.