Homeless Students on the Rise in South Carolina

7:50 PM, Jul 7, 2011   |    comments
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Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- More and more students in South Carolina are becoming homeless or receiving the classification from their school district, but supplemental funds from the federal government don't seem to keep pace with the increase.

Thousands of students across South Carolina deal with more than just peer pressure and bullying every day. Many struggle with the grown-up issue of wondering where or if they'll have a place to go after the last school bell rings.

"It should be the happiest time of somebody's life, growing up and to be in a situation where you don't even have a bed to call your own," said Barbara Grossberg, Richland School District Two's Lead Social Worker. "They don't know where they're gonna be from day to day or where their belongings are gonna be."

The South Carolina State Board of Education released these statistics for the number of homeless students in South Carolina in recent years.

- 2006 - 2007:  6,033
- 2007 - 2008:  7,437
- 2008 - 2009:  8,744
- 2009 - 2010: 10,820

This year, the board says the federal government gave the state about $976,000 in grant money targeted to homeless students. That's up from $800,000 received in 2005.

The money is awarded to 16 districts that apply in the competitive grant process, but comes with limitations on its use. The money can't go to things the school already offer like transportation.

Still, when some families fall on hard times and a child ends up out of their school's zone or district, Richland Two can try to stabilize the situation for a student with their contract with Checker Yellow Cab to keep kids in school.

"The family requests and we feel that it's in the best interest of the student to remain in that school, then we are obligated by law to provide transportation," said Grossberg.

The cost can sometimes be split with a neighboring school district but keeping students successful means more.

"We provide a safe haven for these kids," added Grossberg.
"School is sometimes the only stable factor in a students life."

The state Board of Education says that federal grant money can help pay for things like supplies appropriate clothing , tutors and even field trips or some graduation costs. 

Eligibility isn't just for student with families that may live in shelters, it also extends to included situations like families living with other families, or in substandard housing and unaccompanied students who live without a parent or guardian.

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