Nearly 9,700 students in public schools in Orange County, Florida, had no permanent address in the past academic year, according to a recent report on homeless students by the district. This equates to an increase by about 3,500 over the prior year, senior school administrator Christina Savino said on June 26 at Orange County School Board meeting, Orlando Sentinel reported.
The sharp increase in homeless students owes in part to Hurricane Maria, which struck Puerto Rico in September 2017, causing many people to move to Central Florida.
School board member Pam Gould said the number may be an underestimate as teenagers may be reluctant to disclose their personal situation, according to Orlando Sentinel.
Savino says that federal law requires the district to use federal money to provide these students with free meals, as well as bus rides to go to school, and other services—even if the students are moving around. Local businesses are also helping out by donating money to help supply clothes and school supplies, as well as free restaurant meals and vouchers to get school pictures, according to Savino.
District figures in the latest report noted that of the homeless students, 7,415 were sharing housing, 1,852 were living in hotels, 289 were in shelters, and 134 were sleeping in cars or parks, the Sentinel reported.
The above figures apply to Orange County only. Last year, a study for the 2015-2016 school year estimated close to 15,000 homeless students in Central Florida.