Another Bad Year for Homeless Kids in Twin Ports
The school year is only half way through, but school officials in the Twin Ports are predicting this academic year will see more homeless kids than it did last year. In fact, its setting up to be the worst year for homelessness since the Great Recession began. Most parents don't know the struggles that are walking the halls of their children's school. "I don't know that you would ever just look at a kid and say, 'well that kid's homeless,'" says Veronica Gaidelis-Langer of Chum. The number of homeless students in both Superior and Duluth continue to rise. "In the last five years there has been a gradual climb. It has just been increasing," says Debbi Wagner of Dultuh Public Schools. Duluth is on the fast track to surpass the number of homeless students it saw last year. "We are probably going to be looking at close to 500 kids this year" In Superior, it's a similar story. Only half way through the school year, they already know of nearly 150 homeless kids. By the end of last year, they counted 167. In 2010-2011 they saw a peak at 175 students. "When we are already seeing the numbers that we are seeing this early in the year, I think it's a given that we'll exceed the numbers last year," says Jane Larson of the Human Development Center. School officials and homeless advocates attribute the increase to various factors. "I attribute it to the economy; families losing jobs, and the housing market," says Wagner. "We've seen some families that have been affected by the flood who have lost housing due to that. And I think as a whole we are doing a better job of identification of kids," says Nicky Wilson of Superior Public Schools. All would agree that the high cost and lack of housing in the Twin Ports is a major factor in the growing number of homeless families. "Trying to make a $800 a month rent payment work when they are only getting a thousand dollars a month is really hard. You only have $200 to live by." With no slowdown in sight, homeless advocates and school officials remain focused on keeping these kids in school and learning. "It's a difficult situation, and it's unfortunately not going to be a quick fix." says Larson.