The story of 8-year-old Relisha Rudd’s disappearance has inspired a group of young students to create an interactive map showing where homeless students in DC go to school.

Map by CHMLTAGS on ArcGIS. Each circle indicates a school, and the size of the circles shows the number of homeless students enrolled, ranging from 10-14 for the smallest circles to 59-92 for the largest. Click on a circle to get detailed information about the school. View larger map.

Students from Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan, a preK-through-6th-grade DCPS campus, and BASIS DC, a charter school serving 5th-9th grades, collaborated on the project.

The team of student civic hackers had previously produced a map of

DC’s grocery stores and the “food deserts” in the spaces between them. They then decided they wanted to come up with a project that focused on issues in DC schools.

The students were surprised to read in the Washington Post that at the DCPS school Relisha Rudd attended, Payne Elementary, 55 students out of about 260 are homeless. They wondered how many other DC schools serve homeless students. (Payne is my own in-boundary school, and one of the tween hackers is my son.)

To find out, they contacted the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to request school-by-school data.

OSSE shared the data, and the State Superintendent himself, Jesus Aguirre, had encouraging words for the student hackers.

"Thanks for focusing on such an important issue,” he wrote. “We can’t wait to see what you build!”

Student civic hackers en route to present their maps at an information technology event called Tech Embassy at the Funk Parade. Photo by the author.

Here’s what they built: a map that shows homeless student enrollment by school, for both DCPS and charter schools. (The data released by OSSE, which is for school year 2012-13, shows Payne Elementary as having 31 homeless students out of 235 total.)

The map is a sobering reminder of the extent of homelessness in the District, and it shows that no community is entirely immune. According to the data, even relatively affluent Deal Middle School had 14 homeless students, and Wilson High School had 23.

Sandra Moscoso runs the World Bank Finances Program by day and works on community efforts around education, active transportation, and open government by night. Sandra lives in small, quaint, Washington, DC, where she tries to get a little biking in with her husband and two children.