Associated Press 1:45 p.m. CST, December 18, 2011
DETROIT— The number of Michigan students without a permanent address has risen dramatically as families lose homes through foreclosure and other strife, a newspaper reported Sunday.
More than 31,000 students were considered homeless during the 2010-11 school year, compared to 7,500 during the 2007-08 year, the Detroit Free Press (http://on.freep.com/tQFgKg ) reported, citing statistics from the Michigan Department of Education.
“It doesn’t matter how great your teacher is. If you go to five schools in a year, or no school at all, you won’t learn,” said Barbara Duffield, policy director at the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth in Washington.
Students with no permanent address are living with relatives or friends, or at shelters and motels. Nicole Larabee, 32, and her 14-year-old son, Matt Domagalski, have moved from house to house in Livonia in suburban Detroit. She was working for $12 an hour but quit in 2010 for another job that fell through.
The utilities were turned off at their home in August, and they slept on the floor until the bank foreclosed on the property. They’re now living in a friend’s basement, but it’s not the life they want.
“You never feel at home unless you have your own place,” Matt told the Free Press.
School districts are required by federal law to provide supplies and transportation to students who become homeless, even if their temporary home is far away. Washtenaw County, west of Detroit, spent $9,223 for cabs in October, almost double what it paid the same month in 2010.
“We have families who are moving every three or four days,” said Peri Stone-Palmquist, who’s in charge of the homeless program for Washtenaw County schools.
At a fall conference, educators traded stories about the plight of young people in their communities.
“We also have that sleeping-in-the-woods issue,” said Susan Whitener, a consultant for the Inland Lakes district in northern Michigan’s Cheboygan County. “We maintain a really good supply of sleeping bags and tents for the kids.”
Juan Wise II, 15, and his family lived in one room in a Wayne County family shelter in Westland from March until July. The teen told the Free Press about how he would wait until the buses departed at his middle school in Inkster, so other students wouldn’t see him or his brothers walking to their temporary home.
They got a break last summer and moved into subsidized housing in Ecorse.
“You have to have faith and prayer to get through it,” said Juan, who had a 3.5 grade point average after the first fall marking period.
Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com