SMU Social Contexts of Education Research Group

Key Project

The Impact of COVID-19 and Hurricane Recovery on Homeless Students in Houston

COVID-19 does not necessarily look at your race or your socioeconomic status…

[W]e all may be in the same storm but we’re not all in the same boat.

“Jay”, District Leader

Alexandra Pavlakis, Meredith Richards & Kessa Roberts (R-L)

When COVID-19 struck in Houston, it hit a city still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Harvey’s unprecedented destruction. While all residents’ lives will be touched by the pandemic, students and families living in homelessness—many of whom were hardest-hit by Harvey—are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.

Building on ongoing collaborations with Houston ISD and the Houston Education Research Consortium, our work explores how the intersection of these two generational disasters has shaped both the experiences of homeless students and the practices of the school and community providers that serve them. COVID-19, for instance, has required Houston ISD to move to distance instruction, presenting particular challenges to homeless students who may have limited access to technology devices and consistent Internet.

The closure of school buildings alongside broader social distancing policies also necessitates new and innovative strategies in efforts to connect homeless families to needed community resources, such as food pantries or shelters. Our work, designed in concert with our partners, will help the district better understand the impact of both Harvey and COVID-19 on homelessness, with great potential to contribute to targeted, purposeful supports.

Our Core Research Team

Alexandra Pavlakis, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Meredith Richards, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Kessa Roberts, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

M.J. Hernandez

M.Ed. Student in Higher Education

Mark Pierce

Ph.D. Student in Education

Our Research Partners

Houston ISD Homeless Education Office
Lisa Jackson
Senior Manager/HISD Homeless Liaison

Houston Education Research Consortium
Ruth López Turley, PhD
Director, HERC
Professor of Sociology, Rice University