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  • Susan Stoderl

Homeless Students Grades K-12 Are Dealt Lifelong Issues

Homeless mothers and kids
Homelessness Handicaps Students


FAMILY POVERTY is the number one cause. Those living in poverty struggle to maintain stable housing. Most of these are women with several young children. 

HIGH MOBILITY limits continuity and causes frequent absenteeism. This makes it impossible for students to keep up with their peers. This hinders the student’s literacy experiences and understanding and stifles future education because of lower graduation rates.

SCHOOL ENROLLMENT may be impossible because of a lack of documentation (such as proof of residency or immunization.) 

TRANSPORTATION may be difficult to access or unreliable, causing lateness or non-attendance.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES, such as textbooks, notebooks, and pens, may be unavailable, affecting their participation and learning.

LOWER OVERALL HEALTH is caused by a higher susceptibility to disease, fatigue, and hunger. This results in a lack of focus and understanding of school subjects.

EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL HEALTH is challenged by a homeless student’s constant coping with uncertainty and instability.


Often states and cities ignore, or consciously disobey protective laws for homeless children. Helping them falls to teachers. Here is what you as a teacher can do to help.

  • Adequate preparation to teach homeless students. 

  • Negative beliefs or lack of understanding hinder the students’ literacy development. 

  • Living in homeless shelters, institutional care, foster care, or group homes can restrict children’s early literacy development, leading to a higher number of behavioral problems and school suspensions. 

  • Teachers should plan lessons thoughtfully. 

  • It is important to avoid homework overload. 

  • Breaking projects into small parts helps students feel successful and is critical for their self-image and motivation. 

  • Use a variety of methods and topic options for student assignments to accommodate different learning styles and preferences. 

  • Broaden the diversity of families featured in the books and materials to include the homeless, foster, and other mobile family and youth situations. 

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