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Fredericksburg Reports 173 Children Living Homeless

The Figures Are Nearly 30% Higher Than Last Year

Nearly 100 area children are currently residing in area hotels, as well as the Thurman Brisben Homeless Shelter, Empowerhouse and Loisann’s Hope House. With several months remaining in the school year, the current number of homeless children reflects a nearly 30% increase over last year’s end-of-year tally of 135.

The point-in-time counts, which were completed in late January, reveal an additional 493 homeless children in Spotsylvania, 214 homeless children in Stafford, 68 homeless children in King George and and additional 15 homeless children in Caroline County. King George County also reported six unsheltered children. Stafford County reported three.

The McKinney-Vento Act of 1987 tasks local education agencies with tracking and provisioning homeless students with school enrollment, attendance and additional support at their “school of origin.” This means that if a student experiences a change in residence as a result of homelessness, administrators must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the student can remain in attendance without the experiencing the interruption of switching schools.

Once identified, a student must re-certify with the school’s social worker each year that they are still experiencing homelessness. Homeless children not yet old enough to attend school are tracked and assisted by the Department of Social Services.

Homelessness is defined as living in the following places “due to a lack of a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence”:

– In an emergency or transitional shelter
– In a motel, hotel, or campground due to lack of an adequate alternative
– Doubled up with relatives or friends due to loss of housing or economic hardship
– In the above conditions and is a migratory child or youth

Additionally, “unsheltered” children are defined as those “living in abandoned buildings, campgrounds and vehicles, space not meant for habitation, trailers or FEMA trailers, cars, bus and train stations, and abandoned in the hospital.”

Each area locality’s point-in-time counts as returned from late January 2024 are recorded below (the total number of students was cited from the National Center for Education Statistics):

City of Fredericksburg (3,762 students total)
Shelter (44)
Doubled Up (47)
Hotel / Motel (55)
Unsheltered (0)
Unaccompanied (12)

Spotsylvania County (24,201 students total)
Shelter (16)
Doubled Up (315)
Hotel / Motel (102)
Unsheltered (0)
Unaccompanied (60)

Stafford County (31,105 students total)
Shelter (5)
Doubled Up (153)
Hotel / Motel (83)
Shelter (3)
Unaccompanied (0)

King George County (4,521 students total)
Shelter (0)
Doubled Up (42)
Hotel / Motel (21)
Unsheltered (6)
Unaccompanied (0)

Caroline County (4,337 students total)
Shelter (3)
Doubled Up (3)
Hotel / Motel (9)
Unsheltered (0)
Unaccompanied (0)

In a late February phone interview, Fredericksburg City Public Schools social worker and McKinney-Vento liason Jennifer Bunn confirmed an additional 15 homeless children, as well as a “a couple” of families living in personal vehicles within the city. It’s a condition that Bunn, who has been in the area for three years, hasn’t witnessed before.

So who is helping these children?

Federal funds help but don’t cover everything. Virginia utilizes Project Hope, a program administered by William & Mary for the Department of Education that distributes sub-grants to local school divisions across the state. Project Hope assists with everything from early childhood education and tutoring to health service referrals, school supplies and transportation. For older youth, the program helps with GED testing, obtaining required employment documents, runaway prevention and career and technical training resources.

Locally, churches and other houses of worship provide gift cards, snacks, sports equipment and uniforms and field trips to youth experiencing homelessness. Schools have also partnered with area urgent care clinics for health services.

More than 18,000 children have been identified as homeless across Virginia each year for the last three years.

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