The Realities of Life for Homeless Students Must Be Part of Remote Learning Strategies During Coronavirus Shutdowns

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

The following is an excerpt from an op-ed penned by Barbara Duffield, Executive Director of SchoolHouse Connection, on the realities facing students who are homeless through COVID-19 school closures — and how educators and agencies can help them. For the full piece, visit The 74 Million here.

As our country continues to wrestle with the damaging effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and as school closures become the norm nationwide in an attempt to slow the spread, millions of students are dealing with uncertainty. Kids and families everywhere are facing difficult changes to their daily lives, but one group in particular is suffering profound loss from the systemic closure of our schools: children and youth experiencing homelessness.

For children and youth experiencing homelessness, schools are much more than classrooms. School is often the most stable and secure part of their day, a place that — quite unlike where they sleep at night — does not change. Early childhood settings and schools may also be their only source of food, education, health and mental health services, caring adults, and safety.

Although we don’t know how long these closures will last, many schools have already stated that students won’t be allowed back until the fall. While educators and institutions continue to reassess their policies and make adjustments to ensure that disruptions are as minimally damaging as possible over the coming weeks and months, it’s critical that we center the experiences and realities of students who are homeless in response efforts.

Even before the coronavirus outbreak, student homelessness was a widespread and pervasive challenge. Across the United States in the 2017–18 school year, public schools identified 1.5 million children and youth experiencing homelessness, the highest number ever recorded and one that represents a population larger than the city of Dallas or the entire state of New Hampshire.

At SchoolHouse Connection, we believe education is the only permanent solution to homelessness. Through strategic advocacy and practical assistance in partnership with early childhood programs, schools, higher education institutions and service providers, we aim to ensure that all children and youth experiencing homelessness have full access to quality learning so they will never be homeless as adults. Obviously, educators and schools are a crucial piece of this puzzle, but what does this look like on the ground in the middle of a global pandemic? There are a number of key steps that local education agencies and early childhood providers should take in the coming days, weeks and months to ensure that their responses are supporting those students most impacted.

To read more and learn about the steps educators and providers can take to support students who are homeless through this crisis, visit The 74 Million here.

This is hub of expertise and stories to drive solutions around children, youth, and family homelessness. It is a project of SchoolHouse Connection.