Philadelphia has more than 5,000 homeless children, said Dainette Mintz, director of the city’s Office of Supportive Housing (OSH). Of the 118 homeless 12th graders tracked by the District in 2008-09, only eight graduated.
Homeless students often don’t get what they are entitled to under legislation like the McKinney-Vento Act, a federal law that supports homeless children.
Federal legislation says that homeless students must receive money for uniforms, class dues, and transportation.
Even if they don’t admit their situation to school officials, students who enter the city’s shelters and transitional houses are counted. They are not counted, though, if they are doubled up and living with family or friends due to financial hardship, live in substandard housing with or without parents, have run away or are awaiting foster placement.
Officials plan to improve how they track these students by merging data systems between the city’s Department of Human Services, OSH, and the District. The District now asks for more details about a student’s living conditions, including if they are doubled up with extended family.
Community agencies are collaborating through a program that began last year called Promising Practices for Providers Serving Homeless Students. But participants like Joe Willard of the People’s Emergency Center, said more detailed data profiles of students and their schools are needed for coordinated efforts to be successful.
Another initiative is The Appletree Alternative School, a partnership between the District and OSH. Students can attend the school during the intake process into shelters. Some months, the school averages 10 students per day.
After-school tutoring and summer learning enrichment programs are provided at 14 of the 19 city shelters that admit children.