New study shines light on growing numbers of homeless public school students

SEATTLE -- The number of kids without a home in Seattle is skyrocketing, growing nearly as quickly as rates in New York City.

The data comes out of a new study by Seattle Public Schools and the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness.

The study found more than 3,600 kids going to schools in Seattle don’t have a place to sleep at night to call their own. The study’s authors want policymakers to take in the data and learn how to get more kids into stable housing.

“They can stay here for up to six months,” said New Horizons program director Joseph Seia during a tour of the Belltown facility on Thursday. “Most of our young people are able to get into their own housing within a month or two.”

The facility can house up to 36 young people aged 13-24 on any given night.

“People are able to make it only because of support,” added Seia.

Not only is Seia the program director, he was also a homeless high school student in Seattle. He knows the struggle well.

“It’s very traumatic, it’s emotionally costing to young people,” he said. “When young people act out, they’re really acting out from a place of hurt.”

Experts say when kids don’t have stable housing, frequent moves and transfers can keep them out of class longer and have a lasting impact into adulthood.

The study found a steady increase in the number of kids either living in shelters, motels, friends' homes or on the streets in the past several years in Seattle. The study also identified which schools have the highest number of homeless kids: The top five each have around 100 students.

Downstairs from New Horizon’s offices is the Street Bean coffee shop. It’s another program Seia says can help teach young people skills that can pay off in adulthood.

“Eighty-five percent of young people who were in case management in our last year got housing,” said Meredith Hastings with New Horizons.

She says the guidance case managers provide for young people is important. Without their help, said Hastings, many students would otherwise fall through the cracks.

“They’re doing the things a parent would probably be doing,” said Hastings.

Seattle Public Schools shared this statement with Q13 News regarding the recent study:

SPS regularly reports the number of students who are experiencing homelessness, and our educators know firsthand the stories of their students who are affected. This report may bring new attention for the public about the impact of homelessness on our students and in our schools.

We have strong relationships with the City of Seattle and many community organizations already. One outcome from this report is it may generate new connections and approaches to supporting our students while the larger issues surrounding housing insecurity are addressed.

The full report is available here.