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Sports Illustrated Examines Young Athletes Who Are Homeless

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"More than 100,000 students on U.S. youth, public school, and college teams have no stable place to live," Sports Illustrated magazine says in a cover story on homeless young athletes.

"They often go hungry, drop out more frequently and are more likely to suffer physical and sexual abuse," the special report by L. Jon Wertheim and Ken Rodriguez continues. "How do they survive and even thrive? In many cases, it's through the structure, support, and joy that sports provide."

The story mixes cold statistics with numerous vividly illustrated anecdotes of student-athletes pursuing their sports without that stable place to live.

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The report in the Oct. 20 issue of SI relies heavily on the U.S. Department of Education's figures and its definition of homeless students—more than 1.2 million students as of 2012-13 with "the lack of a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence." The magazine extrapolates from local studies of participation rates in sports by homeless students that at least 82,000 such students in grades 7 through 12 nationally are playing sports.

The anecdotes include a high school football player in Maryland who lived with his parents in their Hyandai Elantra and who studied and bathed in a laundromat; a Texas high school football player who became homeless after giving up his lucrative participation in an underground "fight club"; and a Florida high school baseball player who was a homeless valedictorian with a 4.65 grade-point average. 

"Sports, according to virtually every homeless athlete SI interviewed, are a positive force in their lives," the magazine says. "Coaches often become mentors and even surrogate parents; pregame and postgame meals provide essential nourishment; kids benefit from the exercise and structure."

And "sports often keep [homeless] kids in class, help them graduate and, in some cases, get them into college," the magazine says.

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