Manchin pushes for homeless children assistance

PARKERSBURG — Student homelessness is being addressed by a United States senator from West Virginia.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Tuesday said he spoke to Secretary Betsy DeVos of the U.S. Department of Education about innovative ways to address student homelessness.

“Secretary DeVos and I had a very productive conversation regarding student homelessness in West Virginia and across the United States,” Manchin said.

The number of students who were homeless in West Virginia only two years ago was more than 9,300, according to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. Recent reports put the number around 10,000.

“There are more than 10,000 students who have been identified as homeless in West Virginia, but we know that number is likely much higher,” Manchin said. “This is absolutely unacceptable.”

Manchin said his discussion with DeVos followed up on a letter he wrote to the education secretary on Sept. 6.

The senator pointed out the Department of Education, through the McKinney-Vento Act adopted in 1987, provides funding for local education agencies to address homelessness of students.

“Unfortunately, not enough of these resources are making it to the schools and the children who need them most,” Manchin said. “Of the 55 counties in West Virginia, only eight counties applied for and received portions of the McKinney-Vento funding.”

Jefferson County had the largest number of homeless students, 1,411, according to the 2018-19 homeless student count from the West Virginia Department of Education. Students are considered homeless if they are without a regular or nighttime residence.

The count showed 299 in Wood County, 212 in Roane County, 137 in Wirt County, 131 in Calhoun County, 43 in Pleasants County, 28 in Doddridge County, 15 in Jackson County and 14 in Tyler County.

Manchin invited DeVos to come to West Virginia to learn how local officials deal with student homelessness.

” I believe it would be extraordinarily beneficial for you to meet directly with the folks on the ground working with these children every day,” Manchin said.