Nearly 900 students in the Green Bay school district are homeless.
They've now caught the attention of state lawmakers.
According to the Department of Public Instruction, last year Green Bay schools had the fourth largest homeless population in the state with 937 students, behind only Milwaukee with 3,307 students, Racine with 1,238 students and Madison with 1,168 homeless students.
Next week, Green Bay will be among just four districts taking part in the state's first Homeless Youth Symposium at the Capitol.
"We definitely are seeing an increase in our numbers," says Rachel Miller. She runs the federal McKinney-Vento program for the Green Bay School District. It works to remove barriers so homeless students can still get an education.
As of the beginning of March, 871 students, kindergarten through 12th grade are considered homeless in Green Bay, meaning they have no permanent place to stay each night.
"We're probably, at this point and time last year, around 130 more students," says Miller.
Exactly why? She doesn't know but believes the economy is to blame.
Miller says other school districts are seeing increases, too, but compared to the rest of Northeast Wisconsin, D.P.I. numbers show Green Bay has more homeless students by far. It says, last year, Appleton's school district finished the year with 271 homeless students. Oshkosh had 255, and Manitowoc had 79.
Green Bay isn't far behind Madison, which D.P.I. says ended last school year with 1,168 students.
That worries state lawmakers who are now calling for more ways to help those students.
"It's a problem that we really are going to have to address, because these kids have a very high likelihood of dropping out of school and engaging in other risky behaviors," says Madison Representative Chris Taylor.
Taylor, along with Representatives Amy Loudenbeck and Melissa Sargent are inviting homeless liaisons from Green Bay, Madison, Janesville and Beloit to Madison next week.
Miller will represent Green Bay, raising awareness and sharing ideas with other districts facing similar challenges.
"I think it's great that we are educating the public and bringing awareness, because it is definitely a need that our communities have," says Miller.
"The big target for us are policy makers, to start doing the education around the issue, so that we can start focusing some of our efforts on policies to address the problem," says Taylor.
The Homeless Youth Symposium is at the Capitol Tuesday, March 12th, from one to three p.m. and is open to the public.
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