LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Between roughly 20,000 and 25,000 students in Kentucky are considered homeless. That's about 4%, according to the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). During November, National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, light is shed on the help with education that's available to families.
In Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS), the state's largest district, there are between roughly 5,000 and 6,000 homeless students. However, Giselle Danger-Mercaderes feels the number isn't an adequate measure.
“It’s a big number. But even with that number, I don’t think that really shows the issue and the scope of homelessness," says Danger-Mercaderes, who works at JCPS as the Access & Opportunity Specialist.
It's her job to help schools coordinate reaching out to families considered to be homeless. That can mean living in a shelter, in a hotel, on a friend's couch, or with a family member. It can also mean simply experiencing housing instability.
“So our goal is, while families are facing homelessness, their education is not disrupted," she explained.
The pandemic has indeed complicated that goal, she admits. She expects the number of children to qualify for help to eventually grow. That's true statewide.
“Once those [coronavirus] protections are lifted, we’re likely to see higher numbers as the economy continues to be effected by the environment. We’ll continue to see higher rates," said Missy Ferrell with KDE.
Danger-Mercaderes arranges assistance like Chromebooks to kids with housing instability and WiFi devices. She can arrange transportation, and even maintains a food pantry. Especially during November, she wants more people to know she's there.
“The more I work with families, the more I see families getting in and out of homelessness, I realize just how unfair the stigma is, but it’s real. It’s real. There are people that just don’t understand," she said.
She's urging kindness and asking those in need of help to come forward. JCPS' website includes information on how to get help.
For information on how to get help outside of JCPS, KDE also has details listed on its site.