As teachers across Macomb County compute final grades for the 2011-12 school year, the Macomb Intermediate School District is considering the implications of a much different calculation, namely, the now record number of homeless students in the county.
At the end of 2011, 665 homeless students were identified and assisted by the MISD—a then 41 percent increase over the previous year.
However, as of June 14, the close of the 2011-12 academic year, the MISD had identified 1,126 homeless students who will need assistance for fall 2012.
Those students represent some 537 Macomb County families with approximately 2,065 members, including parents and children below school age. More than 80 percent of these families have never been homeless before, said MISD Homeless Education Liaison Kathleen Kropf.
"Because of the downturn in the economy in Macomb County, we have an increase (in homelessness)," Kropf said. "Houses are still going into foreclosure, and there is an increase in the amount of children in foster care. For the first six months of foster care placement, (students are) considered homeless.”
Student homelessness increases more than 100 percent over five years
Under the 2002 McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (Subtitle VII-B) “homeless children and youth” are defined as those who lack “a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.”
Whether a student’s loss of home is temporary or permanent, if they are living in a shelter, motel, car or sharing the cost of housing with others because of a loss of housing or economic hardship, they are considered homeless.
Using this definition, the number of homeless students in the U.S. increased 38 percent between school years 2006-07 and 2009-10, and 110 percent in Macomb County during that same time span.
While the MISD Homeless Education Project does receive federal assistance for homeless students, Kropf said the “unprecedented” increase continues to stretch resources far too thin.
“There is a national grant that flows to the state and they divide based on the number of homeless students in the county,” Kropf said. “Everyone is seeing an increase. We got $61,000 last year and we raised at least that much to match from community organizations.”
But even with successful fund-raising, Kropf said the HEP can still only afford to supply each student and family with one $50 clothing gift card and one $20-$50 food gift card each school year.
“That’s only a band-aid until they can get help from the Hope Center in Macomb or the Emergency Food Program,” Kropf added.
Rising numbers of homeless students also puts demand on the resources of local school districts, as they must cover the cost of transportation and other services for these students.
, Chippewa Valley Schools reported 35 of its 15,691 students homeless. In L'Anse Creuse Public Schools, the number was 96 of 11,633. Utica Community Schools counted 57 of its 28,313 students and though New Haven Community Schools reported only 18 homeless youth, with only 1,251 students in the district, it had the highest percentage of homeless students of all districts serving Macomb Township, according to the MDE.
Expecting these numbers to only increase, Kropf said the HEP will continue to rely on community aid to support its assistance programs, which include providing homeless students with new backpacks, school supplies, socks, personal hygiene items, winter hats and gloves and, when requested, clothing and shoes. The HEP also serves as a resource center for homeless families who need assistance finding shelter, housing, food and medical care.
For more information on the project, or how to make a donation, contact Kropf at email@example.com or 586-228-3490.
Local assistance available
For student referrals or questions, contact Kropf at the MISD.
Other assistance is available through the following local agencies:
Macomb County Community Services Agency (MCCSA)
- North Action Center, New Haven, 586-749-5146,
- Central Action Center, Mount Clemens, 586-469-6964
Macomb County Department of Human Services (DHS)
- Mount Clemens, 586-469-7700
- Sterling Heights, 586-254-1500
Macomb Homeless Coalition
Macomb County Emergency Food Program (County Food Bank)
- Dial 211