The new school year starts today for thousands of students across Austin, but a growing number of students in Austin public schools don’t have a home. Last year, more than 2,600 students in the Austin Independent School District were counted as homeless, which is up from just over 2,000 in 2012.
For years, April Byassee and her son moved from shelter to shelter in Austin. When he was 4 years old, her son Michael spent a lot of time in the class by himself, crying and needing comfort.
He started doing much better at school, however, when they got affordable housing at Saint Louise House in 2010.
“In second grade he was even given the honor roll, and I have a whole wall of his pictures and awards and certificates from all the years,” Byassee says.
Now, Michael’s going into fourth grade. His mother urges other parents to speak up and tell teachers about their housing situation so they can get help, too.
"They won’t find you in your car; you need to go find them – the resources,” she says. “I opened myself up for help, and every time I turned around, a door opened for me."
Still, Austin nonprofit Housing Works points to challenges like the lack of housing options for low-income families in this area. Housing Works says the number of homeless students has increased consistently in the past three years — 2,030 students in 2012-2013; 2,490 in 2013-2014; and 2,642 in the last academic year.
The Austin Independent School District is cash-strapped and says it doesn’t have enough resources to treat all children, but AISD has a project, the Homeless Education and Learning Program, that, at least as a start, is helping staff identify symptoms.