Addressing housing instability important as the school year begins - Erb-Downward

August 18, 2023

Back to school brings several challenges, from student learning, expectations of academic success and mental health concerns among children to questioning technology replacing educators and AI and the ongoing shortage of teachers, school staff and supplies.  

Jennifer Erb-Downward is a senior research associate at U-M's Poverty Solutions who studies child and family homelessness. Her research explores the connections between student homelessness and school discipline rates, academic proficiency, graduation and dropout rates, chronic absenteeism, receipt of public assistance, and placement in the foster care system.

"The start of the school year is a critical opportunity to identify students who may be experiencing housing instability and homelessness. These students have a right to additional educational support, such as transportation to school, which can prevent school absences and mid-year transfers that are known to negatively impact educational outcomes," she said. 

"The start of school also provides an opportunity for schools to ensure that eligible children are accessing benefits programs that can help to ease financial strain—such as SNAP food aid and Medicaid. Particularly, with pandemic era programs ending, this outreach by schools is needed to ensure that eligible children are not falling off of Medicaid rolls."

This brief was prepared by Michigan News.