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Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan

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735 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-3091


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Student Homelessness


Children in Michigan’s elementary, middle and high schools face homelessness

Children need stability to thrive, but for the more than 1.5 million children across the U.S. in elementary, middle, and high schools who face homelessness, stability often is elusive.
Poverty Solutions works to shed light on the educational and wellbeing impacts that homelessness has on children with the goal of identifying opportunities for structural and policy changes that enable children and families to thrive.

Detroit Homelessness Data Book

Homelessness has been shown to be negatively associated with key educational outcomes with homeless students having the worst dropout, graduation and chronic absenteeism rates of any group in the State of Michigan. To date, there has been very little awareness of the issue of homelessness or its educational impacts on children in Detroit. 

The Detroit Child Homelessness Data Book Project seeks to make new data on homelessness among K-12 students available to key stakeholders and policy makers in the City of Detroit in order to improve program planning and services. During its first year, the project has helped to uncover the under-identification of homelessness and housing instability among students at 96% of all Detroit schools. Partnering with the Detroit CAM and Wayne Metro Community Action Agency, all families entering Detroit’s family shelters are now connected to educational supports and plans are underway to expand this referral system to families who approach the CAM but are diverted from shelter. In the first year of operation, the project connected more than 1,100 children to educational supporters – more than three times the number of children in shelter identified as receiving supports in 2017-18 school year.  Detroit Public Schools Community District is also now using  data on the under-identification of students to talk to schools about their practices and raise awareness of the issue of why it is critical to identify and provide supports to children experiencing homelessness. In April 2021 the Detroit Homelessness Data Book will be available to stakeholders in Detroit so that schools and decision makers can better identify homelessness and housing instability among their students and identify best practices for support. 

This program is supported by the McGregor Fund and Skillman Foundation. 

Education Leads Home: Data-to-action Playbook

Under federal education law all children and youths who “lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence” are homeless. This project builds on Poverty Solutions’ expertise in conducting research-to-action projects to end student homelessness.

With support from SchoolHouse Connection, national non-profit organization working to overcome homelessness through education, and in partnership with Building Changes in Washington State and the Education Trust in New York, and the Detroit Homelessness and Education Databook Project, Poverty Solutions is contributing to a national Education Leads Home Data-to-Action Playbook designed to distill basic “how to” information for use by other state organizations who wish to replicate the state analyses, and use them to promote data-driven best practices to support homeless children and youth.

>>Read more about this project

Detroit Workforce and Housing Instability Referral Project

Stakeholders from the homelessness response and workforce systems in Detroit have been meeting with consultation from the Heartland Alliance to advance efforts to better serve people who are homeless in their efforts to obtain employment. In support of this work, Poverty Solutions is providing data matching and analysis of Detroit’s Homelessness Management Information System and Detroit at Work’s data to better understand the overlap of clients using these two systems prior to the city’s efforts to improve cross system coordination. This project is informed by communities around the country who have utilized a data match between the homeless service and workforce sectors to steward conversations on how these two systems can most effectively integrate their work. 

Access to Primary Care and Shelter for Unaccompanied Minors

In the 2019-20 school year, Michigan’s public schools identified 4,575 homeless youth living independent of parental support. These youth are homeless- living outside, in shelters, or bouncing from couch to couch. They are estranged from their parents, usually due to abuse, neglect, or parents’ struggles with addiction, mental health problems, and extreme poverty. Homeless youth experience multiple negative physical, mental, and behavioral health outcomes including roughly three times the rate of sexual assault and five times the rate of attempted suicide when compared to their housed peers. Amidst these challenges, homeless in Michigan youth are very unlikely to be able to access medical care or emergency shelter. In Michigan, only 35% of homeless high school students had seen a primary care provider in the last 12 months, compared to 76% of youth who were not homeless. Likewise, while more than 4,000 homeless unaccompanied youth are identified by Michigan public schools annually, only around 700 are utilizing the state’s shelters for unaccompanied minors. 

The Access to Primary Care and Shelter project seeks to bring together key stakeholders across the state to raise awareness of the risk unaccompanied minors face and to identify opportunities to improve systems of support.