Number of homeless children falls in W.Va.; lawmakers question the drop
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The West Virginia Department of Education presented a preliminary report showing the number of students without homes per county and statewide.
“I don’t think we have a good handle on the numbers at all, because it just doesn’t make sense that we would suddenly, during a pandemic, have a significantly fewer number of homeless students across the state of West Virginia,” said Democratic Sen. Stephen Baldwin, who represents Greenbrier County.
The report, which was created with the help of the DHHR, shows there are 9,508 students considered homeless for the year 2021 so far. However, in 2020, there were 10,417 students considered homeless.
“We dropped 900 in the last year of children listed as that, so that’s great but nobody can tell us why,” said Republican Sen. Rollan Roberts, who represents Raleigh County. “So that’s a big question mark right now, and we sure are eager to figure that one out.”
Senator Baldwin asked the representative for the Department of Education why they believe the number of students dropped, and they said they were still analyzing that data. However, the Department of Education pointed out that a number of students have left the public school system or may have left the state in the last year so they “need to do further analysis.”
In the report, Cabell County reported 252 children homeless in 2020 and is now reporting 385 for the year of 2021. In Kanawha County, there were 622 students in 2020 considered homeless, and now there are 749. But in counties such as Lincoln, Logan, Mason, Boone and Putnam, the numbers have declined since 2020.
Lawmakers tell WSAZ they hope this discussion is the first step in creating a resolution to the problem and ensuring all data is accurate going forward.
“This is the first time we’ve been able to talk about it in the Legislature in the last few years which is a great step forward, but talking about it isn’t doing much good we need to do something about it,” Baldwin said. “I’m hoping that’s the next step, that now we’ve taken the first step and talked about it openly in a public setting and acknowledged that we have a serious problem with student homelessness in West Virginia, that we’ll be willing to do something about it.”
“We need to do everything we can to take care of the children that West Virginia has taken on as a responsibility,” Roberts told WSAZ. “We have too many children slipping through the cracks and we need to do a better job. I think, I hope, I pray that we do that for those children.”
WSAZ reached out to the Department of Education late Monday night to ask for any further comments. We have not heard back yet.
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