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Alaska program for homeless students sees referral rise

September 18, 2018

KENAI, Alaska (AP) — Referrals have increased for an Alaska school district program that provides services to homeless students in the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

The district has referred 98 children to the Students in Transition program since last week, up from 69 students identified at the same time last year, the Peninsula Clarion reported .

“These are only the students we know of, not necessarily all the homeless students present within our district,” said Kelly King, the district’s program coordinator. “We work very hard to identify and support as many as we can, but we know there are more that we aren’t aware of, for a variety of reasons.”

Following referrals to the program, needs assessments are conducted on students, examining if they meet the federal definition of homelessness, King said. After students are enrolled, the program addresses their needs related to school attendance — including school supplies, hygiene products, meals and school transportation.

“Our whole goal is to make sure students have access to education and that they can have everything they need to succeed while they are there,” King said.

The rise in enrollment this year cannot be attributed to a specific cause, King said. Enrollment is typically high at the beginning of the year, and continues to grow throughout the school year. The program serves about 250 students annually.

Various factors can cause a family and a student to become homeless, including loss of a job, lack of affordable housing, domestic violence, illness and abandonment, King said.

“There is no single reason why people experience homelessness, despite certain stereotypes that are often presented,” King said.

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Information from: (Kenai, Alaska) Peninsula Clarion, http://www.peninsulaclarion.com

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