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This interactive map on student homelessness in California begins to shine a light on the staggering number of young people impacted by homelessness across all 58 counties. Modest estimates show that over 200,000 students are homeless in California, a higher number than any other state in the country.

County profiles have been disaggregated by race and ethnicity and presented to show the relationship between student homelessness and a number of key school climate and academic readiness indicators. These data include: school suspension rates, chronic absenteeism rates, graduation rates and students who graduate UC/CSU eligible. This map will help inform a larger report from our Center on student homelessness to be released in the Spring of 2020 in partnership with the California Department of Education and the Newsom Administration.

The top 10 counties in homeless enrollment are shaded :

 

The Challenge

Students experiencing homelessness often face major hurdles to academic success.  Many young people don’t receive support because their schools often are not aware they are experiencing homelessness, according to a recent state audit.  Feelings of fear, shame and a lack of understanding about what services students and families are eligible to receive if identified by their school can limit the accuracy of any student counts.  Additionally, many schools, particularly those that serve the largest number of homeless students, lack the resources to respond to their multifaceted needs. Student and family immigration status and a number of other factors can also affect homeless counts.  As the interactive data and county profiles make clear, Black and Latinx students are more likely to experience homelessness compared to students of other racial and ethnic groups. 

Understanding Homelessness

In California schools, the federal McKinney-Vento definition (CA Dept of Education, 2019) is used for identifying students experiencing homelessness and suggests all  school-aged children experiencing homelessness have access to the same free, appropriate public education that is provided to non-homeless youth. 

Students are eligible for McKinney Vento if they lack a fixed, regular or adequate nighttime residence. This definition also includes:

  1. Children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason;

  2. Children and youths who may be living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, and shelters;

  3. Children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as regular sleeping accommodation for human beings;

  4. Children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings, or;

  5. Migratory children who qualify as homeless because they are children who are living in similar circumstances listed above.

Even within this broad definition, many school officials fail to identify students who are experiencing homelessness.  Families and students who are in doubled-up housing often go unidentified because they may not be aware they are eligible to receive support.

Below are the top 10 counties with the highest counts of California students experiencing homelessness.

Students Experiencing Homelessness for Counties with Highest Number of Homeless Students

Select an academic year:
2017-2018   2018-2019

County

# of Total
Students

# of Students Experiencing Homelessness

% of Homeless Students

Los Angeles

1,464,002

54,871

3.7%

Orange

478,823

25,418

5.3%

San Bernardino

406,069

23,015

5.7%

San Diego

506,260

15,952

3.2%

Riverside

428,494

15,510

3.6%

Monterey

135,721

8,050

5.9%

Santa Barbara

69,379

7,466

10.8%

Sacramento

246,663

7,435

3.0%

Ventura

135,721

4,768

3.5%

Kern

192,446

3,580

1.9%

Notes: Changes in the 2018 school year from the 2017 school year include an overall increase in the number of homeless students by 1,838 from 52,965 to 54,871. Orange county surpassed San Bernardino county. San Diego county surpassed Riverside county. Monterey county surpassed Santa Barbara county. Ventura county surpassed Kern county.

Rate of Students Experiencing Homelessness by Race and Ethnicity for Counties with Highest Number of Homeless Students

Select an academic year:
2017-2018   2018-2019

% By Race/Ethnicity

Black

American Indian or Alaska Native

Asian

Filipino

Latinx

Pacific Islander

White

Two or More Races

Not Reported

Los Angeles

11.3%

0.2%

3.7%

1.7%

75.1%

0.5%

5.7%

1.2%

0.6%

Orange

1.6%

0.2%

4.0%

1.2%

83.6%

0.5%

7.0%

1.4%

0.5%

San Bernardino

9.7%

0.6%

3.4%

1.0%

71.4%

0.5%

10.6%

2.2%

0.6%

San Diego

8.1%

0.8%

2.3%

3.4%

71.2%

0.5%

8.5%

4.5%

0.8%

Riverside

10.3%

0.4%

1.0%

0.9%

73.2%

0.6%

10.4%

3.0%

0.3%

Monterey

0.7%

0.2%

0.5%

0.8%

91.2%

0.5%

4.2%

1.3%

0.7%

Santa Barbara

0.6%

0.1%

0.6%

0.6%

92.9%

0.1%

4.3%

0.5%

0.3%

Sacramento

21.9%

1.4%

4.6%

1.0%

38.1%

1.4%

22.6%

8.2%

1.0%

Ventura

1.1%

0.1%

0.9%

2.1%

84.0%

0.1%

10.2%

1.4%

0.1%

Kern

11.6%

0.6%

1.7%

0.7%

64.1%

0.1%

18.1%

2.4%

0.8%


Learn about our methodology.

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