Student Homelessness Spikes Again in New Jersey
The final bell rings and you don’t know where you’re sleeping that night, or how you’re getting to school the next day.
That’s the harsh reality for thousands of students in the Garden State each weekday.
According to the newest statistics from the National Center for Homeless Education, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, more than 10,000 students in New Jersey were homeless during the 2013-2014 academic year, a 19 percent jump from the year prior.
“The 19 percent increase this report is citing for this last year is shocking,” said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey. “That’s a significant number of students who are considered homeless.”
Zalkind said the first course of action is finding out why the number is so high. The report does not answer that question.
More than 1.3 million students nationwide had no true place to call home, the report indicated.
Best-case scenario – these homeless children and their families are getting food and warmth at a shelter. But many are staying in cars or abandoned buildings, or jumping from one couch to the next.
Barbara Duffield, director of policy and programs with the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, said homelessness can easily have a negative impact on a student’s performance in school.
“We do see that children and youths who are homeless have lower test scores, have lower graduation rates, have more problems with chronic absenteeism,” Duffield said.
At the same time, though, these kids are in the greatest need for success. A solid education can be their ticket out of poverty. It may also only be their only source of a warm meal and proper supervision.
California heavily outweighed every other state in the report with 310,000 students reported as homeless, followed by New York and Texas at less than half that number.