A staggering statistic has caused school districts across the country to take notice.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are 1.3 million homeless students in the United States. In Texas there are more than 113,000 students who are living in shelters, staying with friends, or bouncing from motel to motel.
The city of Dallas ranks near the top of the list when it comes to homeless students. There were more than 3,600 homeless students enrolled in the Dallas Independent School District in the 2015-2016 school year. In 2017, the number jumped to more than 4,200 students.
The problem is growing, but there has also been an increase in resources.
Mark Pierce, who started the Dallas ISD Homeless Education Program, is working to expand student homeless “drop-in centers” to every comprehensive high school within the district.
“We started with one,” said Pierce, who is from Boston and started his career in education at Dallas ISD 26 years ago as a teacher. “The first drop-in center was at North Dallas High School. We provided food, and now there are hygiene products, clothes, uniforms, shoes. Whatever the student needs we try to get it to them."
As of writing, there are drop-in centers at 19 high schools, and Pierce is hoping to put a center in every high school by May 2018.
“We are constantly assessing what these students need," said Pierce. "They are in survival mode, and if we can meet their basic needs, they can focus on school and have a chance at graduating. That’s what we want. We want them to stay in school."
Dallas ISD board members will vote to expand resources available for students. Advocates are aiming to take a holistic approach to serving this student population.
Thursday, the Dallas ISD board will vote whether the district will partner with other non-profits to open a drop-in center that is open 24 hours every day of the week.
The center would be located in the now vacant Fannie C. Harris Elementary School near Fair Park. Youth and young adults ages 14-21 would be able to receive services such as academic counseling and job placement, as well as a warm meal, clothing, an area to do laundry and take a shower.
To find a complete list of drop-in centers head to the Dallas ISD website HERE.