The population of homeless youth in the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) has reached a catastrophic level, with 4,000+ homeless students. Several Dallas-based organizations offer programs to address the separate needs that sprout from homelessness. But these needs are anything but separate.
Of the homeless youth population, After8toEducate is tackling the most vulnerable population of unsheltered high school students. Under the federal definition, “homeless” means youth who lack fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, ranging from living in a motel or on a friend’s couch. This federal definition includes “unsheltered” which means living in a car, park, campground, street, or abandoned building.
Overwhelming research shows that unsheltered students are at a greater risk of falling behind academically, and in turn more likely to drop out of school. In addition to being susceptible to educational setbacks, they often face a myriad of social and health problems such as drug and alcohol addiction, unemployment, teen pregnancy, depression, and involvement with the criminal justice system.
When unsheltered students age out of the foster care system or opt out of the child welfare system altogether, they are left with limited public and private resources. These remaining services are often only available for restricted hours of the day, leaving many without a place to go after 8:00pm.