More homeless students identified in Routt County schools |

More homeless students identified in Routt County schools

— The number of students in Routt County qualifying for services under a national homeless education act surged during the 2013-14 school year, according to state data.

The Hayden School District reported 13 students to the Colorado Department of Education last year who qualify for services under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, while the Steamboat Springs School District identified three students, both up from zero students during the previous year.

Students identified under McKinney-Vento include those living in shelters, motels, inadequate trailer parks, campgrounds or other places that keep the student from having a “fixed, adequate and regular nighttime residence,” as described by the act. It also includes students “doubling up” with other families or extended family because of an economic hardship or the loss of other housing.

Services provided to the students might include immediate enrollment, even if they lack normally required paperwork, and immediate enrollment in the free and reduced lunch program.

The increase in students identified in Routt County under McKinney-Vento was not necessarily because more students lacked fixed, adequate housing than in the past, but rather because a new school district superintendent in Hayden was knowledgeable about the act and what it means for a student to qualify.

“I’m the one that did the data when I came to the district,” said Superintendent Trudy Vader, who arrived at the Hayden School District in July and whose data was included for the 2013-14 CDE report.

Vader shared knowledge of the McKinney-Vento Act she gained while working in Cripple Creek with Hayden principals, who were able to better understand the numerous living situations that qualify a student as homeless and increase the number of students the district identified.

“I think it’s better identification,” Vader said. “It’s a pretty passionate subject for me.”

Of the 13 students identified in Hayden, 11 were doubled up, while two were living in a hotel or motel.

In Steamboat, the three identified students were doubled up, and in South Routt, no students were identified as homeless.

The numbers from 2013-14 are in stark contrast to the past several years of data from CDE, which showed that, apart from two students in Hayden doubled up during the 2010-11 school year, no students were identified at any Routt County district as homeless as far back 2006.

The number of people identifying as homeless when applying for benefits has increased some over the past five years, according to Routt County Department of Human Services Director Vickie Clark.

Clark said homeless people are referred to resources on the Front Range and Western Slope, adding that people are surprised to learn Steamboat lacks any homeless or transitional housing shelters.

Clark said the closest resource to accommodate runaway youth is in Moffat County.

There were 16 identified homeless youth in the Moffat County School District during the 2013-14 school year, including 12 who were doubled up and four students who were either in a shelter or transitional housing or awaiting foster care placement.

Colorado’s population of homeless students has increased dramatically over the past decade, with about 7,000 students identified during the 2003-04 school year to more than 24,000 identified across the state last year.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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