Foreclosures Have Led to Increase in Homeless Students
The long arm of foreclosure has now led to an increase in homeless students. About two years previously Maria Stephens used to earn $80,000 underwriting mortgages working with First National Bank of Arizona, Fairfax. In the first half of 2007 the owner of her rented townhouse slipped into foreclosure. Few months later, Stephens found herself without a job struggling to survive as a single mother with her three boys.
The family shifted to another rented home and thus began the story of moving. First it was camping with friends, and then spending the last cent on a motel before knocking on the doors of Reston Interfaith shelter. She has been here for the last seven months. She used to drive an hour to take her eldest son, Efton, to school so that he could finish his kindergarten at London Towne Elementary in Centreville.
Efton is one of the many homeless students in Washington region. Educators note that they are all young victims of the foreclosure related economic crisis. The children are now roughing it out with their families in cars, motels or various shelters as the parents struggle not to disrupt the continuity of their education.
Fairfax is a noted wealthy county. Here officials calculated there are 1,314 students in the last month of January 2009 who are homeless. This is an increase of 20% over the same time since last year. The school authorities in D.C say they have seen a 50% jump. Officials from Montgomery, Prince George’s, Loudon and Arlington counties have noted the same.
For families the schools have become a straw to hang on to – some sort of safety net. Students are being donated clothes, school bags and provided with extra tuition together with free breakfast and lunches to keep them running.
Kathi Sheffel the homeless liaison for schools in Fairfax said, “We’re getting calls everyday.” The children in temporary housing constantly worry whether their things are going to be there on the following day. “It’s not their own place, so anything can happen.”
The instability obviously tells on the school performance. A survey conducted on students living in penury in New York, by Professor Yvonne Rafferty of Pace University showed that the homeless students were worst in mathematics and reading. Usually they failed to get promoted to the next grade.
Rafferty explained, “Children thrive on security. For a child who is homeless, it’s like having the rug pulled out from underneath you.”