By Sharon Stevens Education Reporter
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - It's a shocking figure. Federal education officials say 1.6 million students are homeless in the United States.
In Missouri, the number of homeless students is up 75 percent in less than 10 years.
Whether they are in kindergarten or 12th grade, getting an education is not easy if you don't have a permanent home.
There are 340 students at Lexington Elementary School in St. Louis. Fewer than five percent are homeless, but for those who are, the district has a special program called students-in-transition.
Educators hope to keep kids in school and help them find social services and other necessities.
It's been a tough few months for Shannon Mitchell, mother of four children. Her 8-year-old son, Joshua Lewis, recently won as essay contest at Lexington.
Joshua, a future firefighter, says he looks forward to going to school every day.
The district provides school buses or taxicabs to get children to school, but there must be an address of some kind, even if it's a shelter or a motel.
The students-in-transition program is one of the largest in the area. The director, social worker Deidra Thomas-Murray, was once homeless herself.
District officials say the number of children in transition is going up and the costs to educate them are also going up, but the goal is get these children to school.
Mitchell's children will finish the school year at Lexington and then move to their new home in Ill.
Joshua says he's happy about having a home.
"I've got my own room, my own stuff, my own bed," he said.
Thomas-Murray says there are many reasons for homelessness: weather such as tornadoes, the economy and domestic violence.
This is a problem that goes beyond the City of St. Louis. We checked other districts and found the Ferguson-Florissant district has 1,182 homeless students.
The St. Charles district has 184.
In Illinois, East St. Louis schools have 435 homeless students and Granite City has between 680 and 700.
The statistics come from individual school districts, the Missouri Department of Education and the Illinois Department of Education.