Written by T. Logan Dayne
Homelessness in California has been a hot topic for years. During the COVID-19 pandemic it has gotten much worse for some areas like San Francisco which has seen a dramatic uptick in homelessness and crime and places more southern like the once iconic Venice Beach, nearly unrecognizable from its glory days.
There is a subset of homelessness that California may be greatly underreporting though, student homelessness. Between 2015 and 2019 the number of K-12 students experiencing homeless was consistently on the rise, going from 191,008 to 207,677. This inexplicably changed between the years of 2019 to 2021 where the reported number of unhoused students drastically fell by 11.7%. With the total amount of homelessness rising but a subset starkly falling, questions begin to arise. San Diego County itself even identified student homelessness dropping by over 2% during the 2020-2021 school year. These statistics do not align with patterns that have been seen previously.
The cause for this falloff in student homelessness may be due to the issue of identification. Much of this type of homelessness comes from self reporting. Due to isolation and online education many students are going uncounted. This becomes an even greater problem as assistance given to help those most vulnerable are based on the numbers reported. More students go unreported means less funds available to help homeless students. It was a great worry from the executive director of SchoolHouse Connection, an organization meant to overcome homelessness through education, that many educators would lose track of students who struggled with homelessness as things moved online. Lack of internet connection, computers, and other resources meant exile for some of these students who otherwise depended on in-person educators. Even as parents fight for schools to reopen it is unclear if many of these students are even returning. The homelessness liaison for the San Diego County Office of Education said, “I think there’s definitely a percentage of families that we just don’t know. Like they just never came back when school went back in session.”
This unfortunate neglect has significant potential to further exacerbate homelessness in California over generations as homelessness in adulthood is correlated with homelessness as a child. A cycle that perpetuates itself in the state of California.
Photo Cred: Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images