The number of homeless students in West Virginia's public schools has risen from 4,234 in 2009 to about 5,000 this past school year, according to Liza Cordeiro, spokeswoman for the West Virginia Department of Education. Students are considered homeless if they have no permanent housing, but there is more to the definition.

It includes children who live in motels, in a house with more than one family, with an adult who isn't their parent and those in foster care.

Rebecca Derenge, attendance and student support coordinator for the state, says she believes the economy is to blame for the increase.

She said families have struggled with housing because of more bankruptcies, home foreclosures and unemployment.

Students identified as homeless get free meals at school, free school supplies, up to five sets of school clothing and additional tutoring.

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