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Thousands of Hoosier Kids Without a Place to Lay Their Heads at Night

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Some homeless teens "couch surf" and move from home to home. Credit: Andrea Allen/Flickr Creative Commons
Some homeless teens "couch surf" and move from home to home. Credit: Andrea Allen/Flickr Creative Commons
 By Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN, Contact
October 5, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS - Making varsity or finding a date for homecoming are the least of the problems faced by the more than 16,000 kids in Indiana without a place to call home.

Data from the Indiana Department of Education shows homelessness among students in Indiana was 80 percent higher last school year compared with 2008-2009. The Indiana Youth Institute's interim president and CEO Glenn Augustine says these kids face various situations.

"Some of these children are with their parents, sleeping out on the streets," says Augustine. "Some are in shelters. Others are what's called doubling up, that means they've had a family crisis that doesn't allow them to live in their own home and now they're living with another family."

Some older students may "couch surf," moving from home to home. Augustine adds the data doesn't tell the whole story because it doesn't include children younger than age six.

He suggests the Great Recessions is partly to blame for the problem because more people are unemployed or underemployed and unable to afford their standard of living.

Augustine says homeless students suffer vast academic and social challenges.

"It makes it very difficult for them to fit into school, to concentrate on their work, because they may be worried about where their next meal is coming from or where they're going to spend the night that night," he says. "And it just makes it very difficult for them to achieve academically in school."

He says it's critical to recognize student homelessness exists, and for educators and others to find interventions to assist families and children.

"Some of the research is finding that with very pointed interventions, a sense of resiliency can be sparked in homeless children and they can achieve academically," says Augustine. "So it's really incumbent upon schools to try to search out those best practices and see what works best for the children who are homeless within the school system."

The federal McKinney-Vento Act assures educational access for homeless students, and Augustine says there is a liaison in every school corporation available to work with homeless families.

On a personal level, he encourages Hoosiers to seek volunteer opportunities such as helping with donations for a backpack program or serving as a tutor to help a homeless child get up to speed.

Best Practices