A new study shows a direct link between homelessness and poor grades, and the study found some of the highest numbers of homeless schoolchildren were in Central Florida.
Part of the reason, the study found, was that Central Florida school districts, including Orange County Public Schools, do the best job tracking homelessness.
The district said it proactively trains staff to do just that, and assess what additional help a homeless child may need.
The University of Florida-partnered study found the number of homeless schoolchildren more than doubled across the state over the past decade.
While their grades plummeted, the state's highest concentration of homeless students was in Orange County—a nearly 300 percent increase since 2007.
Numbers in Osceola and Seminole counties doubled.
The study found the biggest contributing factor in the jump is a lack of affordable housing.
“We've got many thousands that are in this situation and we're building maybe a dozen or a few hundred units,” said Tim McKinney of United Global Outreach.
McKinney runs United Global Outreach, which connects the chronically homeless with rapid rehousing.
He said the organization's waiting list of 100 people who are approved and funded for housing, but the units are not ready.
He said families with children face even more obstacles, beyond affording the rent.
“There (are) a lot of systems that are broken down, housing being one of them, to lead us to the fact we have chronically impoverished communities,” he said.
With 40 percent of Central Florida's homeless schoolchildren living in motels, shelters or transitional housing, McKinney agrees with the study's conclusion that more help from the private and public sectors is urgent.
“This is not a government-led solution, this is a people-led solution. So all of us have to work together and this problem can be solved,” he said.
To help offer stability and increase attendance for homeless students here in Orange County, the district told us they are all provided transportation.
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