Number of homeless students in Washington state climbs to nearly 40,000

In the Aberdeen School District, there were 421 homeless students in the 2015-16 school year.

By Paige Cornwell

The Seattle Times

Nearly 40,000 Washington students were homeless during the 2015-16 school year, an increase of about 12 percent from the year before. In 21 school districts, the number of homeless students doubled in the two-year span.

In King and Snohomish counties, the increase was 16 percent, according to a Seattle Times analysis of last year’s numbers, which were released last week by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

In all, about 12,190 students were homeless in those districts, compared with 10,500 in the 2014-15 school year. That accounts for about 3 percent of students. Statewide, about 4 percent of students experienced homelessness last year.

The King and Snohomish districts with the greatest percentage increases were Monroe, with a 71 percent jump from 103 students to 176, and Marysville, with a 67 percent increase from 234 students to 391.

In Seattle, the increase was 19 percent, from 2944 students to 3498.

In the Aberdeen School District, there were 421 homeless students, a 13 percent increase from 371 in the 2-14-15 school year.

Reasons for the increase include a lack of affordable housing options and local services that help homeless families, the state superintendent’s office said.

Under the federal McKinney-Vento Act, a student is considered homeless if he or she lacks a regular and adequate place to sleep at night. That could mean students who sleep in a shelter, in a car or park, a motel or hotel — or “doubled up,” which means they slept in someone else’s home. About three out of four homeless students were “doubled up” last year.

The number of homeless students in three school districts in King and Snohomish counties ­­— Darrington, Fife and Riverview — decreased.

District officials in Shoreline, where the number of homeless students grew by 9 percent, say their numbers grew because district staff were able to better determine if a student is homeless or not. Every student gets a residency survey each year when they enroll for school.

“Our staff has gotten much better at identifying homeless students and connecting them to the correct resources,” Shoreline district spokesman Curtis Campbell said.

The McKinney-Vento Act provides federal funding to ensure that students experiencing homelessness have the same educational opportunities as their classmates. The state receives about $950,000 each year from the U.S. Department of Education to pay for homeless students’ transportation, tutoring and school supplies.