Triad school districts report significant increase in number of homeless students

Piedmont Triad News

(WGHP) — Triad school districts are preparing to help more students without stable and secure housing.

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School District could see a record number of students experiencing homelessness, according to Homeless Liaison Tammi O’Quinn.

326 students are homeless in the first month of school, last year there were 481 reported the entire year.

“The question was when they do get evicted, where are they going to go?” O’Quinn said.

She’s been thinking about families in need since July when federal protections against evictions disappeared.

O’Quinn is concerned about the number of students now needing basic essentials to attend classes.

“Just the difficulty of moving around, finding housing, mental health is a huge concern, along with COVID. Also the barrier of not having transportation to get to and from school, and enrolling in school because they don’t have the proper documents needed to enroll,” she explained.

Only about eight families in the district report living in community shelters, 35 are living in hotels.

“What we think is going on is families are getting child tax credit funding and we’re thinking they’re using that money to house themselves in hotels, versus in the past they would normally go to our local shelters,” O’Quinn said.

The district is providing laptops and hotspots in case students have to quarantine.

O’Quinn is also reaching out to school leaders to make sure they know about the Homeless Outreach Program in Education, known as Project Hope.

“We have received some additional funding from the federal government, we plan to use that money to support the needs of students that are experiencing homelessness with additional tutors, those uniforms, arranging that transportation to make sure students are getting to and from school even if they’re out of zone, for their residential school,” she said.

O’Quinn said the State Department of Instruction opens its system in October, that’s when the district can better zone in on schools and identify overall trends when it comes to student homelessness.

In Davidson County, 51 students are without stable housing, compared to 183 students all of last year.

Alamance-Burlington has 143 homeless students in August in September, more than double the number reported for the same time period last year.

FOX8 requested numbers for Guilford and Randolph county school districts, which could not provide this year’s numbers.

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