SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — Despite years of trying to end homelessness, the number of homeless children in California, and the Bay Area, is at an all-time high. California has 20 percent of the nation’s homeless kids. More than a quarter million of them go to school even though they don’t have a permanent place to live.

Playtime looks normal in the schoolyard at Bessie Carmichael, a pre-K through 8 public school South of Market in San Francisco, but it may come as a surprise to learn that 116 of this school’s more than 600 kids are homeless.

“One in five students experiencing homelessness in our country live in California. It is a massive problem in our state,” says Shahera Hyatt, Director of the California Homeless Youth Project.

The percentage of students that are homeless in California has doubled since 2010, The Bay Area has more than 20,000 of them.

“They often don’t look homeless and they try to remain under the radar out of fear of contact with law enforcement or the child welfare system,” Hyatt said.

Most are not living on the street. They are staying on someone’s couch, or sometimes their family is taken in by friends or relatives. Or they’re in shelters, or crammed with parents and siblings in one room at a cheap hotel.

“It is people living in extreme poverty that lose their house for one reason or another. They’re sleeping on floors. They’re sleeping in backyards, barns, toolsheds, and campers; things like this,” she said.

Hyatt knows this firsthand. Her family became homeless when she was 12, growing up in a Sacramento suburb.

“A lot of times you have to craft your own survival strategies and so that might mean exchanging sex for a place to stay for the night. It might mean being in pretty dangerous situations just to get your basic needs for food, shelter and clothing met,” she said.

Statewide, four percent of school kids are homeless. In San Francisco it’s also four percent. That’s about 2,100 students, says Ben Kauffman with the Office of Pupil Services at the San Francisco Unified School District.

“Depending on how well we are able to wrap our arms around that person will often times determine how well they will do,” he said.

But he says kids don’t always reveal that they are homeless, afraid of being stigmatized. Such is the case with 10-year-old, Rachel (who did not reveal her real name). She is a homeless fifth grader in San Francisco.

“I never told my teachers. I never told my friends (also my best friend). I never told anyone. It’s a big secret,” she said.

HOW TO HELP:

Clara House – Compass Family Services
compass-sf.org/programs/clara-house

Hamilton Family Center
hamiltonfamilycenter.org
San Francisco Unified School District –Homeless Children fund for field trips, prom dresses, other expenses.

Contact Jan Walker 415-241-3030 x13338
walkerj@sfusd.edu

California Homeless Youth Project
cahomelessyouth.library.ca.gov

 

 

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