The number of homeless students surged in some Ohio school districts this past fall because of housing woes and the faltering economy, a new report

Columbus schools had 17 percent more homeless children enrolled by the end of October. There were 798 this year, compared with 684 at the same time last year.

"Sometimes, people are spending 50 percent of their income on housing, and they just can't afford it," said Mary Jane
Quick, thedistrict's liaison to homeless students. "I've heard about a lot of evictions."

Schools can be one of the first indicators of rising homelessness, because they count any
student without a fixed, nighttime residence as homeless. By contrast, housing agencies call
people homeless if they stay in a shelter and don't have other options, Quick said.

Nationwide, 19 percent of the 1,700 school districts surveyed had at least as many homeless
students this past fall as they did the entire previous school year, according to a report released last month by First Focus, a Washington, D.C.-based bipartisan group that advocates
for children and families, and the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and

In Cincinnati, enrollment of homeless students grew 19 percent since fall 2007, First Focus
said. Numbers have remained steady so far in the Cleveland district, but it experienced a 40 percent increase between the entire 2006-07 school year and last school year.

"This economic downturn is having a tremendous impact on our children," said Phillip Lovell,
who co-wrote the

First Focus report and is vice president of education policy for the group.

"In the midst of discussion about the drop in the Dow, companies asking for a government
bailout and the size

of the economic-stimulus package, we're missing the point that this crisis is having a

impact on children and youth. And therefore, we're doing very little about it."