November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. – Children and Families and Education professionals throughout Florida join community partners to recognize November as National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. This year, more than 11,000 children were living on the streets or in emergency shelters in Florida each day. The intent of Homeless Youth Awareness Month is to educate the public about the many programs designed to assist youth who are living on the street or at risk of becoming homeless. These programs work to provide a safe place for at-risk youth to live, learn and grow into their full potential. Children experiencing homelessness are more likely to suffer from hunger, chronic health issues and have lower education proficiencies in math and reading.
For the 2007-08 school year, Florida school districts reported a total of 34,376 enrolled homeless students in public schools, which is an 11 percent increase from the 2006-07 school year. Of Florida’s 67 school districts, all but one district reported homeless students enrolled in their schools. The Department of Education defines a homeless student as any youth lacking a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence including those students “doubling up” with friends or extended family due to the lack of a primary residence.
“A child should never be without a home to go to,” said Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon. “They are innocent victims of homelessness. We simply have to decrease these disturbing numbers. It is imperative to strengthen and provide support to healthy family units, increase the availability of affordable housing and provide all children with equal education opportunities.”
Local homeless coalitions around the state reported to the Department of Children and Families this year that 19 percent of the total homeless population in Florida was children under the age of 18. The total number of homeless in Florida is estimated to be nearly 60,000.
In September the Department of Children and Families awarded $6.9 million in Challenge Grants and Homeless Housing Assistance Grants to communities throughout Florida striving to provide assistance to homeless families and individuals in their area. This funding will be used for a variety of services including emergency financial aid to keep families at risk of homelessness in their homes and the creation and renovation of affordable housing for the homeless.
This year the Department of Education awarded more then $3.3 million in Federal Title X Education for Homeless Children and Youth funds to 33 school districts. This funding allows school districts to provide tutoring, counseling, school supplies, referrals for medical, dental, and other health services as well as assistance with participation in school programs. This funding also helps students and their families obtain or transfer the school records necessary for enrollment and can pay for emergency assistance related to school attendance.
“Florida’s education system is dedicated to supporting and educating these highly mobile and very vulnerable children,” said Department of Education Commissioner Eric Smith. “School districts throughout the state are working tirelessly to ensure each and every student has the access to the same high quality public education, regardless of where our students call home.”
For more information on the Department of Children and Families Office of Homelessness and available grants, please visit http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/homelessness/.
For information on the Department of Education, Homeless Education Program, please visit http://www.fldoe.org/bsa/title1/titlex/asp.