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3 Ways Teachers Can Support Students Who are Experiencing Homelessness

Teachers can create unbreakable bonds with their students as they encourage, inspire and lead them in the classroom. Teachers play a huge role in impacting children’s lives, creating a safe space for learning and self expression while being supportive to their students. Over 1.5 million students attending public school in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness. Knowing how to accommodate each child's circumstances helps to foster a sense of trust, allowing the teacher to serve as an advocate for the child's well-being. Here are three ways teachers can support students who are experiencing homelessness:

Help Them Plan for the Future

For many students experiencing homelessness, school may be the only stability in their life. Research studies show that youth who experience homelessness between middle school and high school ages are more likely to drop out of school than those with stable housing. Only 64% of youth who experience homelessness are likely to graduate from high school. Many students who are without housing drop out of school at early ages to fulfill a financial responsibility in the household, or after being displaced from their families for various reasons. By helping a student plan for the future, teachers can help these young people to gain a realistic perspective of how their lives could improve with a high school diploma and a plan for self-sufficiency after completing high school. Facing homelessness each day can create a sense of hopelessness and instability. By encouraging a child to create an attainable plan for the future, teachers can instill hope and responsibility in their students who are experiencing homelessness.

Emotional Support and Inclusion

Providing emotional support to children in schools can be very helpful during adolescent development. This gives students without stable housing a safe space to express themselves in a comfortable way, knowing that they'll be understood by caring professionals. Many students need a positive outlet for anger and other bottled-up emotions that can occur while experiencing homelessness. It is also important for teachers to help make homeless students feel included in classroom activities. This can be accomplished through small gestures like providing students with supplies to help them feel involved in the classroom. Pointing out the great things a child has accomplished or acknowledging good behavior can help boost a young person's confidence. As youth who experience homelessness are more likely to face self-image issues like low self-esteem, being applauded and supported by caring adults can have a positive impact on a child's mindset. Even if they are not receiving this kind of acknowledgement outside of school, it can help them look forward to coming back.

Exposure to Community Resources

By making young people aware of the community resources that could help them and their families exit homelessness, teachers can help students to realize that they are not alone. Knowing that solutions are available can help shift a child's mindset and show them that the experience of homelessness is only temporary. Access to technology on school grounds combined with the introduction to local resources can create a supportive environment for students who are living without housing. By exposing children to attainable scholarships, local food banks, sleep away camps, and other helpful programs, teachers can show students that there is an entire community ready to help their family achieve stability. Referrals to dependable services and organizations can also help build trust between a teacher and any students who may be experiencing homelessness.

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