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GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- School children in West Michigan are now home for the Thanksgiving weekend, but for more than 8,000 of them, home is a shelter, motel, or relative's house.

The number of homeless students in West Michigan and the entire state is up for the fifth straight year, according to new state data.

Student homelessness started its upward climb after the economy nosedived, causing foreclosures and evictions.

Today, new families - many of which have found minimum wage jobs - are being forced into motels and shelters because of the tight rental market.

Renters Property Association of Kent County Director Clay Powell says the rental market hasn't been this tight since prior to the real estate crash of 2008. Powell says as people keep moving into urban Grand Rapids, developers will continue to build, demand higher rent, and take up space for low-income housing.

More than 2,200 homeless students live in Kent County.

"We get calls everyday of people we put into the homeless system," said Tammy Dillon, Grand Rapids Public Schools homeless liaison.

But the numbers across West Michigan are likely much higher, according to local district homeless liaisons.

Teen drop-outs who don't end up at the Bridge - a safe shelter for runaway youth - are hard to track, and some families are embarrassed to report it, especially in the suburban districts. Forest Hills School District homeless liaison Matt Langlois says he expects 60 students by the end of the school year, slightly fewer than last year.

In the video above, WZZM 13'S Stacia Kalinoski takes a closer look at the "New face of homelessness," and the emotional toll it's taking on parents and their students.

"The first night I was here, I remember laying them down and thinking, 'I'm so sorry, momma's so sorry," said Kristina Callahan.

"They ask a lot of questions because they want to come over. What are you supposed to tell them," said her daughter, Alexis.

Transportation is the biggest cost for school districts. They must transport homeless students wherever they move, even if it's 25 miles away, under the McKinney-Vinto Act, a state law.

That's because school is the one stable thing in their lives.

Grand Rapids Public Schools paid more than $32,000 in 2012/2013 in transportation. That includes gas for extended bus routes, public bus passes, gas cards, and cab fare. The most expensive tab by far is cab fare at $28,410.

McKinney-Vinto funding paid for $34,307 of the total amount ($56,119) GRPS spent on its homeless students last year. The remaining $21,812 came from donations.

Aside from transportation, money goes towards uniforms ($15,100), clothing, Drivers Ed fees, student sports, food, and more.

November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. Schools expect their numbers to start increasing and shelters expect more families to start arriving as the weather gets colder. Both places need coats and boots for students, so any help is appreciated.