Osceola student homelessness on the rise

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OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - WFTV found out Osceola County is dealing with a 20 percent increase in its homeless student population.

It’s the exact opposite situation of Seminole County, which has seen its first decline of homeless students in seven years.

The Osceola County School District had more than 4,100 homeless students this year.

That’s a jump from 1,100 students last year.

Osceola County leaders said the numbers may be higher because some students slipped through the cracks and were not classified as homeless in the system.

“In the past year we have made a major effort [and found students] that aren’t in the [homeless] classification,” Leslie Campbell said. “We did a high school enrollment identification and we picked up 500 kids who were in the system, but weren’t identified [as homeless].”

The numbers are partly why Mark Waltrip with the Central Florida Regional Commission on Homelessness is coming up with a plan that proposes county leaders use the tourism tax from hotels to solve the homeless problem.

“If you want these to exist for some other reason, you have to start investing tourism tax dollars in the tourism coridor to give these hotel other forms of occupancy,” Waltrip said.

School leaders said they are still trying to identify more students in the district, especially in middle school.