The May 5 Maine Sunday Telegram story, “As student homelessness rises, so do challenges for Biddeford and Saco schools,” detailed the issues facing school districts in southern Maine that have seen an increase in students who are unhoused. I appreciate the article and its effort to highlight this growing problem. At the same time, I would like to add several important points.

First, the actual number of students who were homeless in 2023 was 4,400, according to the Maine Department of Education – significantly higher than the 2,186 cited in the article. (Editor’s note: The lower figure was taken from DOE data compiled in October; the larger figure is for the entire 2022-2023 school year.) There is no doubt this dramatic increase has placed added pressure on local school districts. That’s why last session, the Legislature enacted a bill submitted by Sen. Joseph Rafferty, which was rolled into the state budget, for $3 million over two years to help students who are at risk of becoming homeless. Furthermore, the state supplemental budget allocated $2 million to extend rental assistance for unhoused students.

Both of these initiatives are in direct response to this unacceptable upward trend, especially since the high school graduation rate for students who are unhoused is only 60%, well below the state average of over 85%. Members of the Legislature are acutely aware that students and their families who struggle to find permanent housing need to be a high priority, and we have taken specific steps to address the problem. But clearly, more needs to be done – and we’re committed to continuing this important work.

Rep. Michael Brennan

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