Homeless students a growing problem in Washington County, officials say

Stock image | Photo by Bodnarchuk/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE (AP) — As the new school year begins, Washington County is struggling to support its growing population of homeless students, officials say.

The Utah Board of Education said the county has the seventh-highest homeless student population of any district, KUER-FM reported.

More than 1,000 homeless students enrolled in the Washington County School District last year. About 80% of those are members of families sharing a home out of economic need. The situation may not look like traditional homelessness, but it is highly unstable, district Homeless Liaison Mike Carr said.

“If you’re the guest family, there’s just constant stress,” Carr said. “You do have a roof over your head, and you’re protected and you probably have food. But even if it’s your own family, it’s like you’re one argument away from being kicked out.”

Washington County is one of the fastest growing areas in the country. Wages have not kept up with inflation from the addition of 139,000 people between 1980 and 2017, an increase of more than 500%. Officials say the population is expected to triple by 2065.

Carol Hollowell, executive director of Switchpint Community Resource Center, St. George, Utah, March 15, 2018 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“The bigger we get, the bigger our problem,” said Carol Hollowell, founder of the Switchpoint Community Resource Center in St. George. “With what people make and what rent is in Washington County, it won’t ever work. It’s just too expensive.”

The school district has received $60,000 in state and district funding for fee waivers, food and transportation for homeless students. That does not include thousands of dollars in donated supplies or new community resources, but officials said the amount is still not enough.

Written by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS with information from KUER-FM.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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