Aug 25, 2013
06:06 AMConnecticut Today
Connecticut Struggles With Issue of Students Who are Homeless
John Berry/Register Citizen
Deirdre DiCara of FISH in Torrington talks to one of the residents of a facility that FISH manages. He is recently homeless and has two young children and his family is getting assitance from FISH and state agencies to help find him a job which will allow him to get a place to live for his kids.
A significant number of school-aged children have become homeless over the past five years in the midst of an economic downturn and foreclosure crisis, but Connecticut has struggled to confront the problem in part because of inconsistency in identifying them.
Ninety-three school districts in the state — more than half — reported having no homeless students in 2011-2012, the last year that data was available. And rural Killingly, with a population of 16,000, reported more homeless students than Bridgeport did.
School districts have identified only 2,804 homeless students in Connecticut. That’s up 50 percent from the number they reported in 2008, but a fraction of the 13,000 the Partnership for Strong Communities estimates.
With identification comes a sometimes-costly legal mandate to provide transportation and other services to homeless students, and some advocates question whether school districts are purposely being lax in identifying them.
Federal funding for outreach efforts in Connecticut has remained flat. The state gets about $500,000 a year, which is parceled out in grants to local school districts. Less than a dozen have a formal, funded program that works to identify and assist homeless students.
Nearly one-third of homeless students identified in Connecticut come from two communities — New Britain and New Haven, with 499 and 327, respectively.