South Portland dealing with dramatic increase in homeless students

Published: Jan. 27, 2021 at 7:07 AM EST
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SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (WMTW) - Education leaders in South Portland are dealing with a dramatic increase in the number of students experiencing homelessness.

Superintendent Ken Kunin says the district is on pace to have 200 homeless students by the end of the school year.

Kunin says this is due to economic disruption brought on by the pandemic.

“This is hard for everyone, and it’s the hardest for people who have the wind in their face. And I think our families who are facing housing insecurity and dislocation, truly have a gale-force wind in their face. So we’re trying the best we can to buffer that.”

On average, Kunin says, the district sees between 30 and 40 students lacking a permanent residence.

Kunin says South Portland education leaders are aware of 113 housing insecure school-age children living in South Portland.

Eighty-six are enrolled students.

South Portland is also working with other districts to try and ensure that if families move from one district to another, education is not interrupted.

“If a student is from a neighboring town and is temporarily homeless here, we will help them to try to make sure they can continue education in their hometown,” Kunin said.

Kunin says to address the problem, the district is trying to connect families with community resources such as food pantries.

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