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Housing issues affect everyone in Connecticut, from those who are searching for a safe place to live, to those who may find it increasingly difficult to afford a place they already call home.WNPR is covering Connecticut's housing and homelessness issues in a series that examines how residents are handling the challenges they face. We look at the trends that matter most right now, and tell stories that help bring the issues to light.

While State Focuses on Adult Homelessness, Homeless Youth on the Rise

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Rosie O'Beirne
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Creative Commons

Homelessness among children and youth in Connecticut has increased by over 11 percent since 2012, according to new data by the U.S. Department of Education. And this is happening while adult homelessness is falling.

State officials and advocates have touted their work to reduce homelessness among adults. But a new report shows that homelessness among youth is actually increasing.

"Families who are experiencing severe poverty really haven't benefited from the economic recovery," said Barbara Duffield, executive director of a nonprofit called SchoolHouse Connections, which focuses on reducing youth homelessness.

"So, they may be working but they're not able to afford housing, or they may not be able to get a job because they don't have the education that's required to get a job that would pay enough," she said.

The rise among youth homelessness is happening as school enrollment is falling. This means that even though there are fewer kids overall in public schools, a higher portion of them are homeless.

Duffield also said the numbers could be higher in part because schools are doing a better job tracking student homelessness. Still, she says the problem is real -- and it’s made worse because more attention is placed on homeless adults.

"The federal government has really has prioritized funding and services for that population, often at the expense of services to families and youth," she said.

The U.S. Department of Education found that roughly three-quarters of homeless Connecticut youth have a place to stay, but it's often with friends or relatives, and it's unstable. Some are living in motels, and others are in cars.

"Children and youth don't know where they're sleeping, they may not know where they're going to eat next, they may be dealing with the events that led to their homelessness -- separation of family members, violence," Duffield said. "So, you know, those sorts of issues make it very difficult to concentrate on school work."

Connecticut is aiming to end family and youth homelessness by 2020, according to the non-profit Partnership for Strong Communities.

David finds and tells stories about education and learning for WNPR radio and its website. He also teaches journalism and media literacy to high school students, and he starts the year with the lesson: “Conflicts of interest: Real or perceived? Both matter.” He thinks he has a sense of humor, and he also finds writing in the third person awkward, but he does it anyway.

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