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Enabling Communities

Research on Detroit student homelessness shapes critical changes

In 2019 and 2020, The Skillman Foundation made a $100,000 investment, matched by the McGregor Fund, to University of Michigan – Poverty Solutions for researcher Jennifer Erb-Downward to create a report of the true number of students experiencing homelessness in Detroit, key barriers they encounter and recommended actions to take to resolve those issues. A collaborative body of stakeholders from schools, basic needs service providers, the Michigan Department of Education, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services guided the research gathering input from homeless youth and developed ideas to address various barriers faced by homeless youth. This collective input gives the report its power and impact.

This research had swift, significant impact:

  • Children that enter homeless shelters in Detroit are now automatically referred to homelessness supports,
    in accordance with national McKinney-Vento legislation, which lays out specific services that should be guaranteed to homeless students.
  • All DPSCD schools now have a point of contact who has received training on identifying students experiencing homelessness and connecting them to resources.
  • The above changes led to an increase in referrals from shelters to support.
  • The changes have also led to a more accurate count of Detroit youth experiencing homelessness.
    • More than 2,000 children have been referred from shelters to support since September 2019.
    • DPSCD has doubled the number of students identified as being homeless since the start of the project, from 1,785 to over 3,500.
  • When the U.S. Senate approved an increase in McKinney Vento funding of $80M in early 2021, it cited the work of Poverty Solutions, in partnership with national student homelessness data and advocacy organization School House Connection, as a justification.
  • It was also instrumental in the $24M in additional McKinney-Vento funding that was allocated to Michigan. 

This is not only a Detroit issue. Michigan is among the ten states with the highest number of homeless students. View the full report here.

Matthew Hoerauf

Supports school climate and culture strategies for the K-12 Education area and leads connections with basic needs providers. Also provides support to the Enabling Communities area.

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