Close to 1 percent, or 213 students, in the Lake Washington School District were reported to be homeless last school year, according to the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Homeless students are counted as part of the federal McKinney-Vento Act, which defines a student as homeless if he or she lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.
The act requires districts to provide homeless students with the same access to education as everyone else, including transportation to and from the same district that the student was attending before he or she became homeless, according to OSPI.
Statewide, the number of homeless students topped 27,000, reflecting an increase of 5.1 percent from 2010-11 and up 46.7 percent from 2007-08, according to OSPI.
In the Lake Washington School District (which covers Redmond, Kirkland and part of Sammamish), the 213 figure is up from 207 students during the 2010-11 school year. Furthermore, district officials believe the numbers is markedly higher this school year.
"With about 25,000 students (in the district), 213 represents just under 1 percent," said Cheryl Chikalla, a programs official with the district who tracks the number of homeless students and assists teachers in helping them. "But I have a feeling we will be over 1 percent this school year. We're running about 10 percent higher this year."
Some of the increase might be attributable to the district becoming better at identifying homeless students. But Chikalla believes the increases last school year and this school year represent an actual increase in homelessness.
Much of it is attributable to a worsening economy and a slow recovery, with parents losing jobs or getting fewer work hours or losing their homes during the recession that began in 2008.
According to OSPI's data provided, 82 of the homeless students in the Lake Washington School District were living in shelters, 124 were living with relatives or friends, and seven were living in an "unsheltered" situation, which could include cars or campgrounds.
Chikalla said those interested in helping homeless students in Kirkland and Redmond could donate to the Pantry Pack program that provides food for the students. For information, click here.
She also said non-profit service organizatons in the area are also good avenues for the community to support, such as Hopelink and Nourishing Networks. For parents who might be facing homelessness, Chikalla recommended the state's "2-1-1 Network," a statewide database of resources; see it by clicking here or by phone, dial 2-1-1 or (877) 211-WASH (9274).
Students are considered homeless if they live in emergency or transitional shelters; motels, hotels, trailer parks or camping grounds; shared housing due to loss of housing or economic hardship; hospitals secondary to abandonment or awaiting foster care placement; cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing or similar situations; and public or private places not ordinarily used as sleeping accommodations for human beings, according to OSPI.
The lack of a stable home puts tremendous pressure on homeless students. Mobility rates are higher than students in homes, absentee rates are higher, health problems are more prevalent and graduation rates are lower, OSPI wrote.
Homeless Students in Washington State by School District
(as reported by each school district)
-- Data from OSPI