In the year after Hurricane Katrina buffeted the Gulf Coast, Denise Riemer and Larissa Dickinson, both homeless education liaisons for their school district, saw more than 2,000 homeless students and their families in the public schools in Mobile, Ala.
This year, in the wake of an ongoing and far broader economic storm, the two women have seen 5,302 homeless students in the 59,000-student district.
“This is pretty amazing because we’re not even halfway through the year and we’re already up,” Ms. Riemer said. “I can’t believe the number of food-stamp applications I’ve processed so far for unaccompanied youth. We have new students we find out about every day.”
The Great Recession caused by the 2008 economic and housing crisis has technically ended, but the number of homeless students nationwide continues to swell, as school districts’ capacity to help them shrinks.
If added together, homeless students now would make up the largest school district in the country—at nearly 1.17 million, considerably more than the entire student population of New York City public schools. Their numbers have grown 24 percent in the last three years, and 10 percent in the last year alone, according to a new federal analysis released by the National Center for Homeless Education, part of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Forty states have seen a rise in their homeless-student populations in 2011-12, and 10 of those faced a jump of 20 percent or more. <Read more.>