Efforts to Curb Youth Homelessness and Increase Student Success Gain National Attention — Advocacy & Communication Solutions (ACS) helps raise awareness in Cleveland.

Student homelessness is a growing epidemic in the United States, according to a recent report by GradNation. The report showed that more than 1.3 million students in the United States were homeless during the 2013–2014 school year, and that these students are 87 percent more likely to drop out of high school than students from stable homes.

That’s the reason Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and A Way Home America Initiative are aimed at bringing a new focus on the issue of homeless youth and working to both prevent and end this issue.

The Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed by President Obama in December 2015, is a federal education law that requires performance and graduation rates of homeless children to be reported separately. Advocates of the law hope this will motivate school districts and states to develop new ways to support homeless youth and help them stay on track. In the summer of 2016, the U.S. Department of Education is expected to send school districts guidance, based on student responses to best serve the homeless student population and ensure they graduate high school and go to college or careers.

Also this summer, A Way Home America (AWHA) officially launched. This national initiative aims to prevent and end homelessness by 2020. A team of homeless youth advocates, researcher, government agencies, and philanthropists behind AWHA will present a policy platform to the presidential campaigns to address homeless youth funding and develop best practices across policy areas.. It will also look at ways to reach out to communities who have had a direct impact on reducing the homeless youth population.

Working with Health & Human Services; Housing and Urban Development; Raikes Foundation; and Melville Charitable Trust & Casey Family Programs, AWHA has invited three communities to support national learning through launching a 100-Day Challenge to identify and execute best practices and end youth homelessness.

The GradNation report also set a goal: A 90 percent graduation rate for homeless youth — the same rate set for high school students who have stable housing. The Every Student Succeeds Act and A Way Home America initiative/100 Day Challenge are the first step towards that goal. ACS’s new client Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland (Ohio), is helping to bring more awareness to issues of youth homelessness and how Cleveland can support their success. ACS believes that we all must work together to make sure all of our country’s students have what they need to succeed, regardless of their access to stable housing.

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