For Broadcast and Publication
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
12.00 a.m. (eastern)

New report by UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools details student homelessness crisis in state, identifies key issues, recommendations

(Los Angeles) Providing a comprehensive analysis of homelessness among students in California, the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools today released new research detailing the challenges facing hundreds of thousands of homeless students and the education agencies and community organizations that serve them.

According to the report, State of Crisis, Dismantling of Student Homelessness in California, analysis of data from the California Department of Education shows that 269,269 K-12 students in California experienced homelessness in 2018-2019.  Large numbers of California’s college students are also struggling with homelessness. The number of students experiencing homelessness in the state has increased by nearly 50 percent in the past decade.  Given the disruption and economic fallout of COVID-19, the report’s authors contend the number of students experiencing homelessness is likely higher.

“Dodger Stadium is empty these days, but can hold some 56,000 people for a big game. California could fill the stadium with students experiencing homelessness almost five times and still probably need to use the parking lot for overflow,” said Joseph Bishop, Director of the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools and lead author of the report. “But our students are not in Dodger Stadium. We are talking about young people who may be sleeping on the streets, in cars or in shelters. This is a crisis that deserves immediate action.”

According to the data, California’s population of students experiencing homelessness is disproportionately Latinx and Black, with Latinx accounting for 7 in 10 of those students. While Black students make up just 5 percent of the student population, they represent 9 percent of students experiencing homelessness.

“Homelessness impacts Latinx and Black students most with real and negative consequences,” said Lorena Camargo Gonzalez, a UCLA researcher and report co-author. “The prevalence of Latinx and Black youth experiencing homelessness requires more racially and culturally responsive strategies in education practice and policy.”

The report also examines the implications for student learning and success. An analysis of patterns in state data from the 2018-2019 academic school year has revealed that students experiencing homelessness are twice as likely to be suspended (6%-3%) or chronically absent (25%-12%), have a lower high school graduation rate (70% -86%), and half as likely to be UC/CSU- ready (29%-52%) than their non-homeless peers.

Drawing on interviews with more than 150 students, educators, and homeless liaisons, the report identifies a need for greater capacity and dedicated funding to address the needs of homeless students. The federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (MVA), is intended to support the educational success of students experiencing homelessness. But just 106 of 1,037 school districts (9%) in California received federal funding from MVA to meet the mandates of the law.

“The 106 MVA subgrants, which total over $10 million, touch about 97,000 young people or about 1 in 3 students experiencing homelessness in the state,” Bishop says. “Meanwhile, a majority of students and local education agencies receive no dedicated federal funds to support the educational success of students experiencing homelessness.”

Some California schools’ districts are prioritizing the needs of students experiencing homelessness through the Local Control Funding Formula planning process, or through the state’s Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS). But California has no dedicated funding stream to support students experiencing homelessness.

Those interviewed for the report also contend current professional capacity to serve homeless students is inadequate and comprehensive and targeted training and support it needed. There is also a need for better coordination between education and community agencies and nonprofits, and respondents urged a stronger focus on early education for homeless students.  Student experiencing homelessness also say they are often overlooked or misunderstood, and need support to fully engage in learning. 

“Even in these tense and difficult times, the large and growing number of students experiencing homelessness in our state is a crisis that should shock all of us,” said Tyrone Howard, faculty director of the Center for the Transformation of Schools.  “We hope this report will create greater awareness of student homelessness, the racial disparities that exist with students experiencing homelessness, and provide policymakers with meaningful insight and information. Aggressive, immediate and effective action is needed by leaders at every level of government and in our community to dismantle this unacceptable crisis.”

The report includes specific recommendations for school district, city and county, state and federal policies. 

State of Crisis, Dismantling of Student Homelessness in California, provides a comprehensive analysis of the student homelessness crisis in California. In addition to a review and analysis of data, the report identifies key findings based on interviews with more than 150 interviews with students, educators, community leaders and others in the field. 

The report is a project of the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools.  Funding for the research has been provided by the Raikes and Stuart Foundations, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and SchoolHouse Connection. The report and summary materials can be found online at http://www.transformschools.ucla.edu/stateofcrisis/

John McDonald – jmcdonald@gseis.ucla.edu
Geneva Sum – gsum@gseis.ucla.edu