A new report says that there are more than 3,600 homeless students in Seattle, and the numbers have increased 55 percent since 2012.

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About one out of every 16 students in Seattle schools is homeless. Many have been for years, and their numbers are increasing at a rate comparable to New York City, according to a new analysis.

In total, Seattle educated 3,612 homeless children in classrooms across the district during the 2015-16 school year, though some schools — such as Garfield High and Washington Middle — had vastly more homeless students than others. Interagency Academy, a network of alternative programs where 36 percent of students were listed as homeless, had the highest rate.

Notably, 17 percent of black students in the district lacked a stable, safe place to live, according to the “Seattle Atlas of Student Homelessness.” The report was released Wednesday by the New York-based Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness, as a way to focus public attention on the scope of the problem.


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The policy research organization attributes much of the growth here — a 55 percent leap between 2012-’16 — to expanded definitions of youth homelessness. Kids who couch-surf, for example, are counted in this analysis, though they are often ineligible for federal housing subsidies, said Josef Kannegaard, chief analyst for the report.


Education Lab is a Seattle Times project that spotlights promising approaches to persistent challenges in public education. It is produced in partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network and is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

· Find out more about Education Lab  

Seattle’s increases are “on the higher end” nationally, he said, though by no means unique. Kannegaard conducted a similar analysis in New York City, where 99,869 students were homeless during 2015-’16. Both cities had a 20 percent increase from the year before, he said.

Kannegaard was unable to examine the distances between where homeless students live and where they attend school because the district didn’t provide that level of data, citing privacy concerns. He faced a similar hurdle comparing academic outcomes between homeless and other low-income students.

But his research did show that homeless kids make up 4-8 percent of students at every grade level in Seattle, except the 12th, where they account for 13 percent.

The data in Kannegaard’s study comes from the same year that the city of Seattle declared a family homelessness emergency, and his analysis shows about 43 percent of homeless students were sleeping in shelters, motels or on the streets. More than half had been without a stable place to live during the prior three years, indicating to Kannegaard that for many young people, the problem is chronic, rather than a one-time blip.

“I give Seattle a lot of credit” for participating in the analysis, he said. Other cities have been less willing to allow that level of scrutiny.

“There was a fear in other districts where officials didn’t want us to dig in.”