Shining a Light on Student Homelessness at SXSW EDU 2018

Over the summer, we asked for your votes to send ICPH and SchoolHouse Connection to SXSW EDU 2018 to shine a light on the 1.3 million students experiencing homelessness across the country. Last week, we were thrilled to announce our acceptance!

SXSW EDU is one of the largest education conferences in the country, aiming to foster innovation in learning through compelling sessions, workshops, and idea sharing. While there are many sessions covering a wealth of topics, ranging from education technology to new approaches in teaching and learning, ours stands out as the only session addressing student homelessness.

Nearly 3% of the nation’s student body has been identified as homeless, with much higher rates in certain localities. Homelessness, over and above poverty, has a disproportionate impact on the education, health, and well-being of students; compared with students who are merely low-income, homeless students suffer from higher rates of health and mental health problems, as well as lower graduation rates.

Bottom line: Homeless students are rarely “just” homeless. They experience trauma, loss, instability, and are uniquely vulnerable. Some of their challenges tie into the reasons for their homelessness, and some are the results of their homelessness. The cumulative impact of the causes and effects of homelessness wreak havoc on young lives, including on educational attainment.

Our panel combines research, policy, practice, and lived experience.  Representing the research, I am excited to bring ICPH’s work to such a broad and diverse audience.  SchoolHouse Connection’s Executive Director, Barbara Duffield, has more than two decades of federal and state policy experience relating to homeless students. Jeanne Stamp, Director of the Texas Homeless Education Office, works across the state of Texas providing training for educators, school administrators, and parents about the laws and rules regarding the education of homeless children. Finally, Irene Sauceda participated in the Young Scholars program that trains homeless and formerly homeless students to be advocates for other homeless youth.

The Invisible Million is what we named our session; our hope is that with access to such a wide audience we can help homeless students across the nation finally be seen by communities, educators, advocates, elected officials, and more. It’s time that not only SXSW EDU, but the entire United States sees the challenges faced by homeless students, and understands the best ways to support them as we work to ensure that a child’s housing status doesn’t define their life outcomes.

Join us in using #sxswSEES on Facebook and Twitter as we continue to look at student homelessness leading up to, and during the conference.


Liz Cohen, Chief of Staff