The St. Clair R-XIII School District may have experienced a significant drop in the number of homeless students it educated last year compared to 2011-12, even though the program coordinator said figures may be skewed.

According to statistics shared with the board of education last month, St. Clair served 113 homeless students in 2012-13, which was 43 fewer than the previous year.

The homeless report was approved during the December board meeting as part of the consent agenda.

In evaluating the report, the district used criteria centering on students living in “doubled-up” situations with another family due to financial hardships; those living at a homeless shelter, awaiting foster care or in transitional housing; unsheltered individuals; children living in hotels or motels; and any other unknown situation.

The drop represents a 38 percent decrease.

“I believe that we have a much larger population of homeless students than what has been identified,” St. Clair R-XIII social worker Emily Goyea told The Missourian this week. “However, homelessness can be difficult to identify due to fear of the stigma that results from being labeled ‘homeless.’”

Goyea also is the district’s homeless coordinator.

The 113 homeless students reported in St. Clair R-XIII in 2012-13 are the fewest since 2008-09.

The reason for the decline, if accurate, could be one or a combination of several factors, Goyea said.

“This decline may be attributed to the fact that homeless population tends to be a very transient population and may have consequently moved to neighboring school districts,” she said.

The report continued by stating that “there may truly be a decrease in the number of homeless students as the financial state of the economy is reportedly on the mend. Additionally, a family may have been identified as homeless for the 2011-12 school year and have remained in the same household into the 2012-13 school year, therefore (would not have been) identified once again as homeless.”

Data was collected at the time of enrollment last year.

“We are all working closely to appropriately identify homeless students so we can ensure that no child is going without something that they need and to ensure that they are connected to community resources,” Goyea said.

In previous years, there were 156 homeless district students reported in 2011-12, 148 in 2010-11, 149 in 2009-10, 111 in 2008-09, 41 in 2007-08, 36 in 2006-07 and 18 in 2005-06.

The 113 homeless number represents slightly more than 5 percent of the entire R-XIII student population.

As far as recommendations for improvement, Goyea listed several.

•Increase knowledge and awareness of community members to help R-XIII identify and aid homeless students and families in the district.

•Ensure the staff enrolling students are aware of homeless criteria.

•Display information regarding the McKinney Ventro Act in an area that is readily accessible to parents and family members. The act, passed in 1987, is a federal law that provides federal money for homeless shelter programs.[

•Increase contact with children’s services to ensure youngsters awaiting foster care placement are identified as homeless.

•Consider how to use grant funding to support the needs of homeless families.

•Develop a system to identify homeless families who are carryovers from the previous school year.