By: KDKA-TV’s Jessica Guay
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A new report is showing an increase in student homelessness across Pennsylvania.READ MORE: Law Enforcement Identifies Victims Of Double Homicide At Westmoreland County Home
What’s most concerning is that it may only get worse because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pittsburgh homeless shelters are already feeling the effects of this.
“There is rising rural homelessness and homelessness among every student group,” said Anna Shaw-Amoah, the policy associate for Research Action in Philadelphia.
The new report by Research for Action found over 31,000 or 1.8 percent of K-12 students in the state experienced homelessness in 2018-19. It also shows that Pennsylvania schools under-identify the number of students facing homelessness.
The pandemic and virtual learning could make it even more difficult for schools to keep track.
“What that means is that schools within the Pennsylvania Department of Education are not identifying and providing the necessary supports to students who live in temporary housing,” Shaw-Amoah said.
Bethlehem Haven in Pittsburgh provides shelter and supportive services to homeless women. Executive director Annette Fetchko says the organization is seeing a rise in homelessness for all ages in Pittsburgh.
“What we’ve experienced here at Bethlehem Haven is really an increase of all populations across the female gender spectrum experiencing homelessness. Many of them for the first time. That in itself is very traumatic,” Fetchko said.READ MORE: Pittsburgh Police Locate Missing 32-Year-Old Keith Walker
The largest rise being seen in the city is women 50 years and older who are losing their jobs. These uncertain times may push more families with children to the point where it’s hard to make ends meet.
There are concerns about how homelessness can impact a child’s education and future.
“In your childhood years, if you experience homelessness, it’s likely that experience is going to move forward as you age,” Fetchko said
Shaw-Amoah and Fetchko believe there are ways to help.
“The state really needs to direct the attention and the funds to supporting LEA’s in fulfilling their obligation to identify and provide education services to students experiencing homelessness,” Shaw-Amoah said.
“Access to mental health supportive services, counseling services so they are able to get real in time support,” Fetchko said.
Research for Action will be releasing additional research about homelessness in Allegheny County. Pittsburgh’s identification rate for student homelessness is 14 out of 100.
Shaw-Amoah said this is close to the national average and more than three times higher than Philadelphia.MORE NEWS: Crews Respond To 3-Alarm Fire In Pittsburgh's Bloomfield Neighborhood
You can check out the full report here.