West Virginia KIDS COUNT releases issue brief on youth homelessness

Counting West Virginia’s rising numbers of homeless children

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WV KIDS COUNT, in partnership with WVU Medicine Children’s and the West Virginia Department of Education, released an issue brief on the rising numbers of children and youth experiencing homelessness across the state of West Virginia. This issue brief, “Counting West Virginia’s Rising Numbers of Homeless Children,” discusses the need to address youth homelessness as a public health problem.   

A child is identified as homeless when his or her nighttime residence is one of the following: sheltered, doubled up, unsheltered, or a hotel/motel. According to the West Virginia Department of Education, there were as many as 10,417 youth experiencing homelessness during the 2019-2020 school year and 10,552 during the 2018-2019 school year, which is an increase of about 14 percent since the 2014-2015 school year (8,959).

“WVU Medicine Children’s is a proud WV KIDS COUNT Regional Ambassador,” Cheryl Jones, assistant vice president for WVU Medicine Children’s and a WV KIDS COUNT Board member, said. “This is an urgent issue and by working together to advance trauma-informed community policy and practice, we can better address the needs and services for children who are homeless.” 

The WV KIDS COUNT State Data Book provides information on the well-being of West Virginia’s children, and much of this information, including education and health, relies on the most recent numbers available from the West Virginia Department of Education.

West Virginia currently offers state and county-based education resources, which include attendance directors and homeless liaisons for each county to access Title I funds that provide various items, services, and support to eligible students. A total of $505,631 in grants were awarded by the West Virginia Department of Education to 14 counties to support a variety of needs and services for youth that are homeless. There are also grants that counties can apply for ranging from $20,000 to $50,000 to supply resources and support to enrolled youth experiencing homelessness.

“With rising numbers, these kids need services and resources beyond shelters that include access to timely specialized physical and mental health services. It takes all of us – educators, healthcare and social service providers, employers, childcare workers, faith community, coaches, and more – to prevent homelessness and intervene as soon as possible,” Tricia Kingery, executive director WV KIDS COUNT, said. “Anyone who works with children should have their eyes and ears wide open so they can ‘be the one’ who champions what is best for them.”

Additional information is available at www.wvkidscount.org, which also contains the most recent national, state, and local data on hundreds of indicators of child well-being.