Homelessness is a growing problem among Shelby County Schools students, Jerica Phillips, deputy chief of communications for Shelby County Schools, said in an emailed statement.
“At present we have over 1,940 students we have identified as homeless or unaccompanied who are enrolled in SCS. Last school year (2018–19), 1,352 students were identified.
“The greatest challenge we face is identifying those students who are not living in shelters or working with agencies such as MIFA (Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association) to secure housing options. This is due to the lack of understanding around the definition of homelessness.
“Homelessness in Memphis does not look like what we see passing through large urban cities,” she said. “Our homeless student population is not sleeping in the park or under bridges. Instead, they are sleeping in cars, living with different friends and family members each night or staying in motels and temporary shelters.”
“According to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which governs how schools assist homeless students, homeless individuals are defined as those who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. …”
The school system trains staff and employees at charter schools and community agencies each year how to identify students who may be homeless, Phillips said.
The students are allowed to enroll even without records, and are provided school supplies, uniforms, transportation to school and referrals to agencies that can help.
“To ensure progression, we have homeless specialists who collaborate with school staff to identify additional needs for support throughout the school year,” Phillips said.
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