Schools become the frontline for identifying homeless youth

11/25/2015 02:00 PM

NEWPORT – While many families will get together on Thursday to celebrate Thanksgiving, there is a growing number of families who have no full time residence and are classified as homeless.

In Northern Kentucky, it’s estimated that 2,100 students are classified as homeless in Boone, Kenton, and Campbell counties — meaning that they have no permanent residence.

Tiffany Smith, staff attorney at the Children’s Law Center, says research shows that children who are homeless are likely to have undesirable characteristics.

“Any youth who experience homelessness has a much higher rate of learning disabilities, much higher rate of medical conditions such as asthma, ear infections, abdominal distress,” Smith said. “They have much higher rates of school failure, truancy, dropout rates.”

Because of the growing problem, many school districts have hired coordinators to identify homeless students and get them the help that they need.

Kristy McNally is coordinator of Newport Services, Tools, and Empowerment project for Newport Independent Schools where 152 students, or roughly 8 percent of the total student population has been identified as homeless.

McNally says that the reasons for homelessness in her district vary.

“Sometimes it could be an illness, lack of jobs, evictions,” McNally said. “Sometimes it could be a bad decision.”

The National Center for Family Homelessness ranked Kentucky as the worst state for actual homeless youth. The commonwealth is ranked 20th in policy and planning, which brings the state’s overall ranking of homeless youth to 42nd in the nation.


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