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Black, Native American Students More Likely to Be Homeless in Washington State

Native American students in Washington state are three times more likely to be homeless than white students, according to a recent article by The Seattle Times.

During the 2013-14 school year, 7.6 percent of Native American students were homeless, compared to 2.3 percent of white students and 4.1 percent of Hispanic and Latino students. Black students had the same homelessness rate as their Native American peers.

Nationwide, about 2.5 million children are homeless, which is a historic high, according to a recent report by The National Center on Family Homelessness. Across the country, rural schools are serving increasing numbers of low-income students and an estimated 9 percent of homeless people live in rural areas. In rural parts of Kansas, where some districts are seeing a nearly 300 percent increase in homeless students, there is a lack of health-care access, transportation, and homeless shelters, and many communities are unable to provide resources that may be available to homeless families in more urban areas. 

A 2013 series by EdWeek highlighted the many challenges facing Native American communities, including high rates of poverty and low graduation rates. Those communities are often impacted by alcoholism, suicide, and high unemployment rates. Although American Indian and Alaska Native students account for less than 2 percent of the student population in Washington state, a report released last year found that in nine Washington state school districts Native American students are also more likely to face discipline than their white and Hispanic peers.

In an attempt to create more stability for homeless students in Washington state, an elementary school in Tacoma, Wash., has partnered with the local housing authority to offer housing vouchers. The fifty families that are participating in the pilot program must participate in parent-teacher conferences, volunteer at their child's school, and work with a caseworker to receive a voucher. 

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