A record number of homeless students are attending Florida schools according to new numbers released by the U.S. Department of Education. Almost 70,000 kids in the state were homeless during the 2012-2013 school year, a 10 percent increase compared to the national average of 8 percent.
However, most of those kids are not recognized as homeless by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which acts as a clearinghouse for many social services available to the homeless.
Most homeless kids live “doubled-up,” a housing situation in which several families live under one roof but not by choice. Doubled-up living is not considered homeless by HUD, leaving those children out of their count.
“If a child is not eligible for the housing assistance then they can’t get subsidized services," says Bruce Lesley with the First Focus Campaign for Children, a national child advocacy organization. The children "therefore remain in these situations where they have to basically couch surf and go and double up or live in temporary settings like hotels for a period of time. The instability for kids is dramatic.”
Lesley says that instability can lead to higher rates of mental health problems and kids dropping out of school.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein has sponsored the Homeless Children and Youth Act, which would fix some of the issues of defining the problem. The bill, which is still in committee, would allow more children and their families to be eligible for housing assistance.
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