Months into the pandemic, school districts across Illinois braced for a rise in the number of students without stable housing.
The COVID-19 crisis had unleashed widespread job loss and health complications, leaving “many more families and children homeless or at risk of homelessness,” the Illinois State Board of Education warned in July 2020.
When the numbers came in, however, it was “quite a shock,” said Deb Dempsey, an advocate for homeless students with the Kane County Regional Office of Education.
Schools identified thousands fewer homeless students in 2020-21 than in the year before.
But what appears to be a significant decline is not only misleading – it’s cause for concern. Educators said there isn’t a reduction in homelessness.
Tom Bookler, a regional homeless liaison in the North Cook Intermediate Service Center, said “it’s just that they’ve lost track of them, which is the worst thing that can happen because then they’re kind of falling through the cracks and not getting the services that they need.”