Learning about: Teen Homelessness

Learning about: Teen Homelessness

Hailey Rae Darras and Logan Wortman

Since the pandemic, there has been a large increase in homelessness including among teens. In 2019, the state of Colorado had a homeless population of approximately 2,302 people. Following quarantine, in the year 2022, that number became more than 10,000 people. With homeless rates on the rise, people have become more and more worried about the young people who are affected. 


What is homelessness?


Many people assume that when you say someone is homeless, they simply don’t have a house. This is not the case. Englewood High School counselor Amy Bricco explains the definition of homelessness when it comes to teens, “It could be that they are staying in a motel or hotel, or they’re doubled up with friends or family, or they’re in transitional living. They could be in an emergency shelter or an apartment or house without utilities. Or they could be staying in their car or in restrooms or at the bus station, or in the train station.”


We got more information from Bricco so you can learn about the situations facing some students at Englewood High School: 


Q: So what is the McKinney-Vento homeless education program?


A: So McKinney-Vento is a program to provide services for those families, children and youth, who are experiencing hardship. It could either be they are in a motel or hotel they’re doubled up with friends or family, their transitional living. They could be in an emergency shelter, apartment or house without utilities. Or they could be staying in their car or the restrooms or the bus station, train station. So we identify those students who are having those circumstances right now and hardships and we try to overcome that obstacle to make it easier for them to get education. So we provide support and services so that it’s one less obstacle they have to worry about to get their education.


Q: How do you families make this available to them? 


A: So usually it gets identified when they register for school. There’s a question that asks where they are currently living and there’s usually a box that can check and then I get notified, and I then call the parent. Students that aren’t  having their basic needs met can be successful in school, and I will then ask what their current living living situation is, and then I’ll ask them, How long did you stay in your last permanent place?  Why did you have to leave that area? How long have you stayed where you’re at right now? And is this temporary or permanent? And then, how many people are living with you? Adults, children and number of rooms. If they’re not doubled up, but if they’re in a one bedroom with a parent and five kids, they need extra support. Then I asked them, What is your primary cause of housing instability? Were they evicted? Did they get foreclosed because they could not afford housing? Was it a household or domestic factor? Did they lose their job or a decrease in income? Was it a natural disaster? Was it the pandemic of COVID are now above that above? 


Q: What supports are there for the student? 


A: I ask, What does your student need? And maybe they’ll say transportation, because we provide gas vouchers or bus passes. Do they need help with getting their immunizations, or maybe their birth certificate? Do they need extra tutoring or homework assistance? Do they need help with housing? I’ve had families where they have lived out of their car and I can get them a hotel voucher, usually a night or possibly even a week we’ve had to do. Do they need counseling? Do they need help with getting medical or dental assistants? 


Q: What do you do to provide items outside of school? 


A: We ask, Do they need school supplies? Do they need food? We also ask them if they need clothing or hygiene items which we have a whole store in the Englewood District at Colorado’s Finest High school of Choice. There’s a whole room, it’s all free. They can go in and pick out clothes and hygiene items which is really awesome. And then also do they need support such as a 504 or an IEP? And then I asked the fam the parent, what do they think is the barrier or needs that are affecting their child from being successful in school? And it is usually either transportation, lack of childcare, the family barriers, maybe there’s a language barrier, or they need support with rent. They don’t have a job or they can’t pay their utility bills. 


Q: The school district supports these families, too? 


A: I send all of this off to the district that then gets approved by the district and they send it to the state and then we have these funds that we use to help support our homeless families. 


Q: You brought up the pandemic. So have you witnessed a spike of homeless students throughout the pandemic?


A: Yes, because I was trying to help families find housing because they couldn’t pay, since there were no jobs, or the rent went up. I would send them resources in Colorado for rental assistance and there were none available. There were so many people that needed it, they had a waitlist and they were backed up with all the support. But right after and, even last semester. Yeah, it was bad. It was hard to find people help.


Q: Is there any information that you would like to add?


A: If a student is identified as McKinney-Vento at Englewood High School, and then they end up finding housing somewhere else, they have the legal right to still stay at Englewood High School even if they’re out of district because they are McKinney Vento. The last thing we want to do is disturb their learning and shake up their stability. They might have made friends here and know supportive teachers and then all of a sudden they have to go to a different school. I’ve given students bus passes to be able to come back here because now they live somewhere else but they are doing better at the school. They have always been able to because they were identified as McKinney Vento. 


To learn more about how McKinney-Vento can support you and your family, click on this link.