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Homeless Youth Rate Addressed

Published: October 30, 2015

CHENEY, Washington - A faculty research team at Eastern Washington University has identified 3,000 homeless students in Spokane County, and their report offers various community avenues to help reduce homelessness while improving educational outcomes and overall mental health for children in public schools grades K-8.

The findings were unveiled at a community forum Nov. 3, and show the youth homeless rate in Spokane is considerably higher than the state average. 

The study was launched last spring after EWU received a $40,000 grant from Priority Spokane, a civic leadership group working to generate measurable improvements in community health and Spokane County.

"Priority Spokane hopes to raise the community's awareness around the high number of homeless students in Spokane County," says Lyndia Wilson chair of Priority Spokane and division director at Spokane Regional Health District. "The study provides us with strategies that have the potential to prevent homelessness and the stress or trauma these students and their families go through."

EWU researchers Deanna Trella, PhD, director and assistant professor of Children's Studies, and Timothy Hilton, PhD, associate professor of Social Work, conducted interviews with homeless families, policy makers and service providers, and analyzed homelessness prevention service models around the U.S.

The findings reveal Spokane County's rate of homelessness is very high- 33% higher than the state average. Of the nearly 3,000 homeless children in Spokane County schools, 76% are doubling-up with family and friends due to eviction or other financial issues. Experts believe this type of stressful situation is the most common precursor to entering a homeless shelter, and increases the chances of dropping out before high school graduation.

Key recommendations to serve homeless families with children in Spokane-area schools include:

  1. A homelessness prevention and diversion program targeting families at-risk of foreclosure or eviction and families who are doubling-up with family and friends.
  2. School based services to address homeless students' unmet academic and mental health care needs. As with the first recommendation, there is an expected return of more than $2 for every $1 in program investment based on reductions in number of students who must repeat a grade.

Increasing existing public funding sources for these programs is one part of the solutoin, according to Hilton and Trella.

Numerous community partners have united to help Priority Spokane fund this research, including Inland Northwest Community Foundation (INWCF), Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) and Providence Health Care.


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