BELTON — Tim Stahlke, senior program coordinator for the Texas Homeless Education Office, talked to members of the Bell County Homeless Coalition about the collaboration of his office and coalitions across the state in how to address homeless youths.
The Texas Homeless Education Office works with school districts to make sure they are providing what’s needed by homeless students in their schools.
On its website, the Texas Homeless Education office has information on students in foster care.
“We do know that 80 percent of students who age out of foster care without support end up homeless by the time they are 21,” Stahlke said.
Every school district in Texas is required to have a dedicated homeless and foster care liaison, he said.
One of the things they do is encourage the foster care liaison in the school districts to get those students enrolled in a dual-credit class.
The dual-credit class will meet the requirements for that student enrolling in college. Foster students have a lifetime education benefit that exempts or waives payment of tuition and fees at state-supported colleges or universities for foster youths currently or formerly in the conservatorship of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
“The main thing we are involved in as an agency is to support the identification of homeless youths within the school districts,” Stahlke said.
In Texas, during 2017-18, there were 5.4 million enrolled students, 231,205 were identified as homeless and 33,000 were in foster care, according to the Texas Education Agen-cy.
The living situations for homeless students ranged from 24 percent as unsheltered, 9 percent in hotels and motels, 9 percent in shelters and 58 percent were doubled up, such as living with multiple families or “couch surfing.”
The prior year, Texas homeless numbered 116,103. The increase in 2017-18 was attributed to Hurricane Harvey, which devastated the Texas coast.
So many students face homelessness because of lack of affordable housing, parental job loss and family conflicts.
Homeless students may perform two to three years below grade level and every move costs them four to six months of academic progress, according to Education for Homeless Children and Youth.
Homeless students are counted differently than adults as a result of the McKinney-Vento Act, Stahlke said.
According to the act, children who lack a fixed, regular and adequate night time residence are considered homeless.
There will be a come-and-go instructional meeting for the August Point-in-Time count 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 18 at the Central Texas Council of Governments building, 2180 N. Main St. in Belton. The coalition will be handing out gifts cards to those who take the survey and are collecting donations to pay for the cards, according to Ebony Jackson, homeless coalition chairman.