Teach Me, Don’t Lose Me: How Schools in Los Angeles are Responding to an Increase in Homeless Youth
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In Los Angeles County, the most vulnerable of those experiencing homelessness, youth under eighteen, number over 100,000. The negative impact of the trauma and realities of homelessness on their ability to obtain an education, while currently measured in terms of high dropout rates, expulsion, suspension, repeat of grades and other academic setbacks, cannot be fully quantified. In Los Angeles, there is finally an urgency to address the catastrophic homelessness situation. Through the passage of City and County measures, voters approved billions of dollars to combat homelessness. While it remains to be seen if these funds will be used to specifically address the education of students experiencing homelessness, the greatest barrier to homeless students’ education is the lack of a stable home. At the federal, state and school district level, policies to that protect the rights of homeless students and their access to public education have been in place for decades. This study seeks to understand how schools in Los Angeles are responding to an increase in homeless students in order to provide recommendations that will allow Los Angeles schools and organizations to provide support to homeless students. In order to answer the question, “How are Schools in Los Angeles Responding to an Increase in Homeless Youth?” 53 individuals who have direct experience with homeless youth in an educational capacity were surveyed. My research focused on identifying the challenges encountered by homeless students, teaching methods employed to overcome these challenges and resources need to allow homeless students to thrive academically. My research findings, which are consistent with the literature addressing these issues, demonstrate that teachers and administrators feel as though they are not provided with sufficient resources to properly support this vulnerable population of students. Also consistent with the literature, my recommendations reflect that teachers and schools must identify the barriers and issues the homeless students in their particular schools are facing and respond to those issues rapidly and resourcefully.