YAKIMA, Wash. -- Homelessness among Washington’s K-12 students has risen to an all-time high of about 1 in 25 students during the last school year, according to recently released data from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The 40,934 homeless students represents a 3.2 percent increase over the previous school year when 39,671 homeless students were counted out of 1 million students statewide.
Unsheltered homeless students showed the sharpest increase, with 2,134 living in parks, abandoned buildings or cars or on the streets — a 29 percent increase over the previous school year.
The increases are being felt in the Yakima Valley, where several school districts, including Yakima, saw an increase in homeless students last school year.
Over the past nine school years, the Yakima School District has seen its homeless student population nearly quadruple. In the 2008-09 school year, the district had counted 171 homeless students; the number had grown to 847 by 2015-16.
There were 853 homeless students counted in the 2016-17 school year, accounting for about 5 percent of the district’s 16,200 students, according to the latest data.
Many of these students belong to families doubled up under one roof, or who are couch surfing, and some are on the streets — unstable living situations that affect the ability to learn.
There are several reasons for the increases, such as a lack of affordable housing in many communities, lack of jobs and reductions in services, according to OSPI.