Homeless students on the rise in Washington

Feb 4, 2013

Some 27, 390 homeless students went to public school in Washington last year — up more than 5 percent over the year before, according to new numbers released by the state superintendent’s office. In the past, increases like that have been explained by school districts getting better at counting. But spokesman Nathan Olson said this time, based on what he’s heard from district officials, it looks like there just really are more homeless students.

“The data collection is fine now. People know about this, the homeless liaisons that every district has know about this, it’s not an issue. The issue really is the economy right now,” Olson said.

The state gets nearly a million dollars from the federal government to provide services to homeless students. That can include tutoring, supplies, or what’s often the biggest expense: transportation. Chet Harum oversees homeless student services at Wenatchee School District, which serves more than 500 homeless kids. He said the district moves mountains to get them to school.

“We use our school buses, we use taxis, we do actually have a special bus that actually routes around for all of our homeless families that pick up in different areas and makes sure that these kids are taken care of,” Harum said.

Seattle schools reported the most homeless students, with nearly 1,900. It’s followed by Tacoma and Spokane.