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Analysis: Student Homelessness Skyrockets in Idaho

Both urban and rural parts of Idaho have seen increases in the number of homeless students. (ms_psych/Twenty20)
Both urban and rural parts of Idaho have seen increases in the number of homeless students. (ms_psych/Twenty20)
August 29, 2018

BOISE, Idaho – Homelessness and a lack of stable housing for their families has soared among Idaho students in the past few years, according to a new analysis.

The state Department of Education has found that K-through-12 students without regular housing increased from about 4,700 in the 2010 school year to about 7,800 in 2017 - a more than 60 percent rise over seven years.

According to Alejandra Cerna Rios, a policy director with the Idaho Asset Building Network, a lack of affordable housing is driving this issue in both urban and rural areas.

"Rents have risen out of proportion with wages over many, many years," she said, "causing more and more families with school children to double up with other families for budget reasons, live in motels or in hotels, or live completely unsheltered, with a number of consequences for educational outcomes."

About 2.5 percent of students in Idaho lived with housing instability in the last school year. The number was about 1.5 percent in 2010.

Large districts such as Caldwell and West Ada have seen homeless student numbers more than double, but rural communities also have suffered. Total enrollment was less than 500 in a majority of the school districts with the highest rates of students experiencing homelessness.

Cerna Rios said students without permanent housing experience higher levels of stress and learning disabilities, and are more likely to be suspended or drop out of school. Housing-cost relief could come from Congress in the form of rental-assistance vouchers, but Cerna Rios said even if such a measure is implemented, Idaho needs to focus on state-level efforts as well.

"Certainly more should be done, given the scale of the lack of affordability," she said. "Compared with neighboring states, especially around Idaho, there aren't a lot of tools here at the state and local level for communities that want to head off a housing affordability crisis before it gets worse."

She noted that the state's rapid growth, fastest in the nation last year, is contributing to the housing-affordability crisis.

Data by district can be found under the "Data Collection" tab at

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID