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Tough Issue

Tackling youth homelessness

Try to remember what it was like to go to bed at night after having finished your homework, or to wake up in the morning and join the family rush to get ready and get out the door to school. Think about having friends over. Think about knowing you had the same safe place to come home to each day after school; and that the routine would most likely be the same the next day, and the day after that …

Too many West Virginia kids do not have that experience. In fact, according to a WV KIDS COUNT issue brief released this week, there were 10,417 youth classified as homeless during the 2019-20 school year.

That is an increase of 14 percent from the 2014-15 school year. For the purposes of the report, homelessness is defined as a child’s nighttime residence being sheltered, doubled up, unsheltered or hotel/motel.

WV KIDS COUNT partnered with the state Department of Education in an effort to get communities engaged in tackling the problem. We know our local communities have focused generally on the problem of homelessness, but the challenges for kids in that situation require their own solutions.

“Poverty, grandparents raising grandchildren, the opioid epidemic, lack of affordable housing, and living through a pandemic are some of the factors that impact homelessness. Children who are homeless typically face adverse events before they even enter school. Imagine what getting ready for school looks and feels like. This is compounded by research that says children who experience Adverse Childhood Experiences are statistically more likely to experience lifelong negative effects on physical and mental health,” said Tricia Kingery, WV KIDS COUNT executive director. Lawmakers, community officials, churches, nonprofit organizations and of course the school system must renew efforts to find funding and provide the help these kids -and their families -need to stay on track.

If we can make a difference for these kids now, we will make a difference for the rest of their lives.

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