Des Moines Schools Could See a Record Number of Homeless Students

Homeless mother with her daughter. Poor family.

Photo: Getty Images

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Iowa's largest school district is on track to see a record number of homeless students this school year--after setting a record last year.

"That was just over 1,100 homeless students by the end of the school year last year. We, as of right now, have 920 kids that are identified as homeless. Our numbers are much, much greater than they were last year, and we're on track to surpass that number," says Des Moines Public School District Homeless Liaison Lyn Marchant.

She says the more than 900 kids are those the district knows about--that there are likely many others.

"There's so many kids that we haven't identified and go unidentified, whether it's because the family doesn't want you to know or the shame and the stigma that goes along with being homeless--you know, that's strong," Marchant says.

She says the district is working to keep up with those homeless students and their families.

"I've got at least one--possibly two--individuals in each of our nearly 60 buildings. They really are the boots-on-the-ground--a supporting role in making sure that it keeps moving forward--helping connect dots and developing the system," Marchant says.

As for the kids themselves, she says while some families are in shelters or motels, most are doubling-up in the homes of friends or other family members which makes it hard to keep track of those homeless students.

"Communication is difficult. Oftentimes were running into an increased absenteeism rate, and academics start to decline because students haven't been in school, possibly, and then you're looking at the social and emotional toll that it takes on the students and family members," Marchant says.

The Des Moines Public School District says it will have a food pantry in nearly all of it's school buildings by the end of the current semester. They also say medical and dental services are available to all their students.

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