On a normal school night, 5-year-old Esther has to compete with 12 other people in a cramped apartment for space at the kitchen table to do her homework. At bedtime, she and her three sisters share a queen-size bed, while her mother and father sleep on the floor. Down the hall, a family of seven shares the other bedroom. In the morning, there’s usually a line for the bathroom.
This kind of overcrowding has become commonplace in parts of the Central Coast, as low-income families struggle with increasingly steep rents. And it's having serious repercussions on kids and their teachers.
Life in a house like Esther’s, where there is no guarantee of getting access to the bathroom or laundry, and no quiet place to study, can be so tough on students that some are actually considered homeless under the law, even if they have a roof over their heads.
In Monterey County, the number of homeless students has grown from fewer than 1,000 to more than 9,000 over the last decade, according to figures provided by the county. That marks one of the highest rates of student homelessness in the state.