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Student homelessness on the rise for Hamilton County Schools

The number of students experiencing homelessness so far into this school year is almost equal to the total that were homeless during the entirety of last year.

HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. — More than 1,000 Hamilton County Schools students are experiencing homelessness this semester so far, nearly totaling the amount from the previous school year.

Laura Grier, the Hamilton County Schools Homeless Liaison, said students are living in hotels, cars, shelters, campgrounds, and even doubling up with friends or family.

"Right now, we're at over 1,400 students, and at the end of last year it was around 1,600 students," she said.

Between 75 and 100 of those students were staying at the Budgetel in East Ridge before being kicked out, just over a week ago.

Dr. Marsha Drake, the Chief Officer of Equity and Advocacy for Hamilton County Schools, said there are several factors behind the increase in student homelessness.

She said one of the reasons is that single parents can't make ends meet with the job they have.

"It's just not paying the wages in order to secure housing. I am sure you are well aware of our housing market here in Chattanooga. There is not a big or large percentage of affordable housing here in Chattanooga," Dr. Drake said.

Grier said the district is always working to make sure students are housed.

"We work closely with the school social workers to help identify the families. Once we identify families as being unhoused, we can offer additional levels of support and give access to different resources throughout the community, and ensure they are remaining at their school of origin," Grier said.

The district recently got additional funds to address the issues. With those funds, they can provide wraparound services — offering tutoring services to those in shelters and other needs.

With winter break just weeks away, Grier said she will continue to be available to assist and help families in need.

"We do partner with Toys for Tots, some of the Christmas programs for students to have access to gifts over Christmas, Coats for Kids, and those types of organizations. I'll continue to work with the Homeless Coalition and City Housing Navigators to help house people," Grier said.

If you would like to self-identify for the Families in Transition Program, select the program referral link here or contact your school social worker. 

If you would like to donate, visit The Hamilton County Schools Foundation page here and designate your gift to "Families in Transition."

This story was originally reported by Local 3 News in Chattanooga.

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