This guest post comes from Kerry Wrenick, state coordinator for homeless education at the Colorado Department of Education.
Last school year, more than 1.3 million children were reported as homeless by U.S. public schools. Despite a Federal Framework to End Youth Homelessness (by 2020), homelessness continues to be a prominent factor impacting course failure, social/emotional well-being and graduation rates.
Governors from across the country, including Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, have issued proclamations to bring attention to this growing, yet preventable, issue. State leaders are thinking strategically about how to leverage resources and ensure the needs of homeless youth are prioritized.
For example, in Colorado, the Office of Homeless Youth Services provides information, coordination and support services for infrastructure around homeless youth. OHYS is uniquely located within the Colorado Division of Housing, which gives youth an opportunity to have a voice when funding for housing becomes available or when vouchers are set to be allocated. This has also resulted in the largest set aside of youth-specific Family Unification Program vouchers in the nation, under Colorado’s Homeless Prevention and Activity Program. The funds ensure homeless service providers are trained in Permanent Supportive Housing while also having access to project-based vouchers to help fund new developments. Lastly, Colorado recently completed a large homeless youth count to help advise where new housing resources are needed and make programmatic recommendations to improve services.
In Colorado, over 23,000 school-aged children were identified as homeless during the 2015-16 school year. Of those, 1,700 were experiencing homelessness while not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian, and only 53.2 percent graduated (below the state average of 78.9 percent).
There are youth within your communities, too, who lack permanent housing, and you can be a part of the solution by educating yourself and raising awareness. Learn more about homeless youth in your state by visiting: