Contrary to popular belief, most homeless people in the America don’t actually sleep on the street or in shelters.

In fact, as this Above the Noise video explains, the nation’s homeless population includes a surprising number of young people and their families stuck in transitory housing situations, many of them couch-surfing or staying in cheap hotels in lieu of a home of their own.

Using state reporting data, the U.S. Department of Education estimates there were nearly 1.3 million homeless students nationwide during the 2014-15 school year. That’s double what it was 10 years ago, and only includes k-12 students enrolled in public schools.

Data based on mandatory reporting from local school districts. (America’s Promise Alliance)

The DoE estimates that more than 75 percent of these students sleep temporarily in other people’s houses as a result, primarily, of severe economic hardship.

That means well over 1 million public school students are living in insecure housing situations, without rooms of their own or even beds they can necessarily rely on.

According to a 2016 report by nonpartisan America’s Promise Alliance, homeless students are disproportionately minorities and much more likely than their peers to struggle academically and have poor attendance and more disciplinary issues.

And unlike the nearly 600,000 homeless people on the nation’s streets or in shelters registered in 2015 point-in-time counts, it a good deal harder for schools to identify which of their students are homeless and try to provide them with the help they might need.


Hidden in Plain Sight: Student Homelessness in America 12 March,2018Matthew Green


Matthew Green

Matthew Green is a digital media producer for KQED News. He previously produced The Lowdown, KQED’s multimedia news education blog. Matthew's written for numerous Bay Area publications, including the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle. He also taught journalism classes at Fremont High School in East Oakland.

Email:; Twitter: @MGreenKQED

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