Posts Tagged ‘Homeless Youth’

This is what love thy neighbor really means. You may not have a spare house, but how about a spare room?

Click here

Across the country, tens of thousands of underemployed and jobless young people, many with college degrees, are struggling to house themselves in the wake of the recession, which has left workers between the ages of 18 and 24 with the highest unemployment rate of all adults. Click HERE for labor stats 

Some can move back home with their parents, but that’s not an option for those whose families have been hit hard by the economy. Without a stable home address, they are part of an elusive group that hope to avoid the stigma of public homelessness and are missed by many yearly homeless counts. They are mostly couch surfers or sleep hidden away in cars or other private places, during what they hope will be a temporary predicament.
These young adults have joined the new face of a national homeless population; one that poverty experts and case workers say is growing. Yet the problem remains mostly invisible. Most cities and states, that focus on the chronically homeless have not made special efforts to identify and help young adults and homeless families with children, who tend to shy away from ordinary shelters out of fear of being victimized by the chronically homeless who may have criminal backgrounds or who are mentally unstable.

$20.5-million complex for the chronically homeless?
The Skid Row Housing Trust in Los Angeles is building a 102-unit, $20.5-million complex by stacking pre-outfitted apartments atop one another in a Lego-like fashion to save time and money. The residents will pay 30% of their monthly job or government assistance income as rent but are not required to seek on-site medical treatment, psychiatric counseling, drug or alcohol treatment or therapy as a condition of residency.

“The thought is, how do we help people make the choice that is best for them,” said Mike Alvidrez, executive director of the Skid Row Housing Trust, who stressed the trust’s Housing First model — a philosophy that has caught fire nationwide. Alvidrez said, “The first step to helping someone recover from a chronic drug or alcohol problem is to give them a home and sense of community.”
But will someone who has a permanent residence they can afford seek out psychiatric counseling, drug or alcohol treatment on their own? Most likely, they will not. But thankfully, the problem can be hidden from the people of Los Angeles now. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-skid-row-housing-20121216,0,1039440.story

Not all shelters agree with this “Housing First” philosophy.
Founded in 1975, the Siena/Francis House is Nebraska’s largest shelter, providing food, emergency shelter & clothing, along with outreach/case management to homeless families and individuals from Omaha and surrounding communities. The Siena/Francis House also houses a residential chemical addictions treatment center, a day services center, an employment training program, and a medical clinic. The Siena/Francis House has a policy that tries to never turn away any person or family who comes to them in need, regardless of their circumstances.

In 2011 the Siena/Francis House served 418,107 meals and provided 156,258 nights of shelter to approximately 4,000 homeless men, women and children. In pursuing the ultimate goal of breaking the cycle of homelessness – one person at a time – the Siena/Francis House provides a residential addiction recovery program, aptly named “Miracles Treatment Center”. Any person who desires to participate in the Miracles Treatment Center must be willing to commit to stay at least 120 days in the Siena/Francis House’s residential program, enter its job training program, and provide 40 service hours per week at the shelter.

The Siena/Francis House’s belief is that, by finding value and untapped abilities in people that society has overlooked, they help them find value in themselves. By providing persons in the Miracles Treatment Center with counseling, education, job training, and life and independent living skills, they furnish them the tools that will help them recover from, and successfully manage the problems that brought them to the doors of the Siena/Francis House in the first place. It is through programs like this that people receive a vision for a new future; one that is positive; because without vision people are destroyed.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” (Proverbs 29:18)

NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams will be airing an interview with Ann Curry Thursday, Nov. 29th that deals with a family of five from Johnson City, Tenn., that despite their homelessness, they are still a working family. There is now a growing number of working families who have become homeless in the wake of the current economic crisis.

Too many people are still holding onto the stereotyped homeless populations; that homeless people are either lazy or drug addicts, alcoholics, or have some type of mental problem. Although these make up a small percentage of the homeless community, there are literally hundreds of thousands of people, many of them hard working families, who are homeless as well.

The number of people in homeless families living in suburban and rural areas rose nearly 60 percent during the Great Recession, according to figures from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). More than one million school-aged children are now homeless, according to the Department of Education.  And it’s more likely today that your own children are sharing a classroom with a few homeless children. (And possibly joining other classmates in making fun of them)

Many of these employed homeless have worked hard to pursue the American dream. They have college degrees. They worked to build their savings just like they were taught. But when you combine student loan debt with medical bills (Even with the health insurance from work) , a family’s debt can very easily grow into a mountain.

Many families live paycheck to paycheck and still do not have enough to cover their monthly expenses.  They become behind on their rent, and even if they downsize to a smaller apartment in a bad neighborhood they still might not be able to afford rent.

Advocates say there are not enough shelters for the nation’s new wave of homeless families and many shelters separate men, women and children because of security reasons.

Shaun Donovan, the secretary of HUD, said that shelters must begin to use their funding differently to accommodate the rise in homeless families. But at the same time he acknowledged that family-friendly shelters are under-funded.

How many of us are one bad injury or a paycheck away from being homeless?

If you end up in the hospital, you are not earning any money. And if you work and are fortunate enough to have health insurance, you will still most likely have an out of pocket deductible and co-pays. A minimum wage job only pays $290 a week. (Hardly enough to pay for a decent apartment and keep up with medical bills, let alone purchase a house)

I remember when I was homeless for a time and lived in my van because my job at the time didn’t pay enough for me to afford rent. I used a relative’s shower every morning before I went to work. The large church that I was involved with at the time generously offered to let me sleep in a storage closet during the winter. (Do you sense the sarcasm?)

Let’s face it-we live in a very greedy world that refuses to be our brother’s keeper. When I think about all of the wealth available to many of the mega churches in this country that could easily meet the needs of the less fortunate in their communities, I feel like I could walk through those churches and turn over their pews, whipping anyone who tried to stop me.

Unfortunately, I don’t think even such a drastic act would accomplish much more than getting me a room without a view in the local jail.

Even though it’s so easy to blame “the other guy” for the ills of the world, the solution should be directed at myself- What can I do to help? It may not seem like a lot, but I can help the homeless community by donating my time and finances to organizations that minister to the needs of the homeless community. And I can minister one on one to those who are homeless when God gives me the opportunity.

Isn’t that what being a godly person is all about anyway?

Ways to help:

http://www.endhomelessness.org/

http://www.usich.gov/

http://www.familyhomelessness.org/

It’s always recommended to get a bumper-to-bumper inspection of our vehicles at least once a year right before winter; from checking the antifreeze and brakes, to batteries and wiper blades. It’s also recommended to do a checklist to winterize our homes including: having the furnace checked by a service technician, replacing the air filter, clearing obstacles to heating vents, and insulating doors, windows, and exposed water pipes.

This time of year many of us begin our yearly chore of going through our closets and exchanging our summer clothes for our warmer winter apparel. Some of us may even opt to purchase new winter coats in anticipation of the approaching cold season.

So what should we do to winterize the homeless?

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, seven hundred people experiencing or at risk of homelessness die from hypothermia annually in the United States. Forty-four percent of the nation’s homeless are unsheltered. From the urban streets of our populated cities to the remote back-country of rural America, hypothermia – or subnormal temperature in the body – remains a leading, critical and preventable cause of injury and death among those experiencing homelessness.

Hypothermia does not occur only when the ambient temperature becomes very cold.  Wind and precipitation, which lower the perceived temperature, can cause the body to lose heat more quickly.  Wet clothing causes a 20-fold increase in heat loss, and wet clothing in cold weather can cause heat to be lost 32 times faster.  Adequate clothing, including hats and mittens, helps prevent hypothermia by creating a static layer of warm air, keeping the skin dry, and creating a barrier against the wind. Hats are especially crucial: up to 50% of a person’s body heat can be lost through an uncovered head.  Inadequate clothing is also a risk factor for frostbite.  Additional risk factors for hypothermia include malnutrition, decreased body fat, underlying infection, lack of fitness, fatigue, inadequate shelter and heat, and other pre-existing medical conditions. Infants and elderly people are particularly vulnerable.  Other risk factors for frostbite include diabetes, smoking, and the presence of an infected wound.

Many of these risk factors are common among the homeless population.  Due to the circumstances of life on the streets, many homeless people do not have hats, gloves, or other clothing necessary for cold weather, and do not have extra outfits to change into when their clothing becomes wet.  Many homeless people are not able to eat full or healthy meals and, as a result, suffer from malnutrition.  People experiencing homelessness are three to six times more likely to become ill than housed people. (National Health Care for the Homeless Council 2008)

Homelessness itself is associated with higher levels of hypothermia-related death. Relatively few people die directly from hypothermia. However, people who are homeless often have nowhere to go when the temperature drops.  Even those who seek shelter and are allowed to enter a homeless shelter are frequently turned back onto the streets during the day. The homeless population is at greatly increased risk for hypothermia and other cold-related conditions. Many of the homeless service providers in Omaha are open 24 hours each day during the year when the temperature falls below 40o F.

World Herald Staff Writer, Erin Grace, reported in her March 2010 article that the number of homeless people in the Omaha metropolitan area grew this year by 13 percent. The rise in the homeless population comes at a time when agencies are increasing housing options and launching programs to prevent homelessness funded by federal stimulus dollars.

Harsh winters are seen as a partial driver of the high numbers, but shelters such as the Siena-Francis House in Omaha had already seen an increase before the first flurries fell last winter.

“I saw more people losing jobs or having hours cut to the point where they just couldn’t sustain the housing,” said Mike Saklar, director of Siena-Francis House, at 1702 Nicholas St. January numbers, he said, were “off the charts.”

The 341-bed shelter housed an average of 473 people in January of 2010 and 468 people in February, up from 405 and 395, respectively, for those months in 2009. On Jan. 27, 491 people stayed at Siena-Francis House. An additional 10 people were counted outdoors; six in tents and four in cars at the shelter. Temperatures that day ranged from 16 to 27 degrees.

Now, helping missions overseas is commendable and I encourage everyone who is able, to get involved in missionary work in other countries. But there is also a great mission field right here in our own backyard. And although writing a check for a generous donation to one of the many homeless shelters is also commendable, (and I encourage it) maybe sometimes God doesn’t want us to just send money; maybe He wants us to go and get personally involved.

We all know that weather can be extremely difficult to predict. Another cold winter could be deadly for someone living on the streets. Far too long we have ignored the homeless and made them the invisible community. I challenge everyone reading this to go out and get to know these people struggling with poverty and homelessness. You’ll be surprised to find out that they’re not that different than you and I. They have hopes and dreams of a better life for their children. They are doing the best they can in this economy to care for their loved ones.

I would encourage people to visit one of your local homeless shelters and find out where they could use your help. Talk to them about starting a winter clothing drive. There is so much we can do to help the homeless community that doesn’t take much effort, time, or money.

A few years ago my wife and I started a holiday tradition of collecting hats and gloves and handing them out to the homeless in our area. With winter fast approaching, area homeless shelters will need your support more than ever. Contact the shelters to donate your winter clothing and other items they may need. Most shelters are always looking for volunteers. Look to your homeless shelters for volunteer opportunities. I listed addresses, phone numbers, and websites below. Please help and get involved.

Remember Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (Matthew 25:40)

Emergency Shelters Near Omaha, Ne:

OPEN DOOR MISSION   http://www.opendoormission.org/

2706 N 21 St E, Omaha NE . . . . . . . 402-422-1111

MICAH HOUSE   http://www.themicahhouse.org/

1415 Ave J, Council Bluffs IA. . . (712) 323-4416

SIENA/FRANCIS HOUSE   http://www.sienafrancis.org/

1702 Nicholas St, Omaha NE . . . . . . 402-342-1821

STEPHEN CENTER   http://www.stephencenter.org/

2723 Q St, Omaha NE . . . . . . . . . . . 402-731-0238

MOHMS Place Joshua House   http://www.mohmsplace.org/

1435 15 St. Council Bluffs IA. . (712) 322-7570

PHOENIX HOUSE

Victims of domestic abuse (confidential location)

Council Bluffs IA . . . . . . . . . . . (712) 328-0266

Toll-free . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (888) 612-0266

THE SHELTER

Victims of domestic abuse (confidential location)

Omaha NE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 402-558-5700

SAFE HAVEN

Victims of domestic abuse (confidential location)

Sarpy County NE . . . . . . . . . . 402- 292-5888

Toll-free . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-800-523-3666

Jonah Reuben
Singer / Songwriter, Preacher, Blogger

For more than 30 years Jonah Reuben has been playing his unique style of Christian music through different venues and organizations. Jonah’s raspy vocals are hard to ignore as he brings his message of uncompromising devotion to God to his audience. He believes that Christian music should be more about ministry than entertaining.

Besides recording and producing music Jonah is also an accomplished writer and has posted several articles online dealing with various subjects such as Christian Living, Church Revival, and being an advocate for the homeless community.

Jonah’s greatest desire is to have the opportunity to bring his message of spiritual renewal and revival to the Church. He believes that God wants a strong, rock-like Church so powerful that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.

Jonah is a unique minister of the Gospel who uses contemporary style music, scripture, and life experiences to exhort and build up the Body of Christ. He is available to minister at your church, youth group or special event.

 

 

According to a new government report, more than 900,000 schoolchildren in this country have no real home. They are part of a growing population of school children who live in cheap motel rooms, usually in rundown crime-ridden parts of town, or in the family car.

CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts reported how one school in Las Vegas is making a difference in the lives of the homeless children there.

Principal Sherrie Gahn of Whitney Elementary School in East Las Vegas should be given a humanitarian award for what she does for the homeless children in her school.

Inside Whitney Elementary School nearly 85 percent of the children are homeless. That’s 518 kids out of 610!

So Principal Gahn came up with a plan to not only help these kids, but also their parents and the community.

Read the CBS Evening News report here.

I hope this will inspire and challenge others to do what they can to help the homeless school children in there own city.

Here’s another link about a followup report CBS News did on homeless children.

The housing and homelessness crisis in the United States has worsened over the past two years, particularly due to the current economic and foreclosure crises. By some estimates, more than 311,000 people nationwide have been evicted from their homes this year after lenders took over the properties.

People being evicted from foreclosed properties and the economic crisis in general have contributed to the growing homeless population. As more people fall into homelessness, local service providers are seeing an increase in the demand for services.

An unfortunate trend in many cities around the country has been to turn to the criminal justice system to deal with the homeless people living in public spaces.

This trend includes measures that target homeless people by making it illegal to perform normal activities in public. These measures prohibit activities such as sleeping/camping, eating, sitting, and begging in public spaces, usually including criminal penalties for violation of these laws.
The criminalization of the homeless includes:
• Legislation that makes it illegal to sleep, sit, or store personal belongings in public spaces in cities where people are forced to live in public spaces;
• Selective enforcement of more neutral laws, such as loitering or open container laws, against homeless persons;
• Sweeps of city areas where homeless persons are living to drive them out of the area, frequently resulting in the destruction of those persons’ personal property, including important personal documents and medication; and
• Laws that punish people for begging or panhandling to move poor or homeless persons out of a city or downtown area.

Sarasota, FL
In February 2005, the City Commission unanimously approved an ordinance prohibiting “lodging out of doors.” The previous “no-camping” law was ruled unconstitutional by a state court last year because it was too vague and punished innocent conduct. A new law prohibited using any public or private property for “lodging” outdoors without permission from the property owner.

In June 2005, a state court found the “no lodging law” unconstitutional. County Judge David L. Denkin said the ordinance gave police officers too much discretion in deciding who is a threat to public health and safety, and who is just taking a nap on the beach. City commissioners have long insisted that the ordinances are about protecting people, but the ordinance has been used to arrest homeless persons.

Nonetheless, in August 2005, the city commissioners passed yet another ordinance, strangely similar to the previous two that were ruled unconstitutional. The new ordinance makes it a crime to sleep without permission on city or private property, either in a tent or makeshift shelter, or while “atop or covered by materials.” The city commissioners invented a list of criteria to determine if a person violates the new law.

One or more of the following five features must be observed in order to make an arrest: “numerous items of personal belongings are present; the person is engaged in cooking activities, the person has built or is maintaining a fire, the person has engaged in digging or earth-breaking activities, or the person is asleep and when awakened states that he or she has no other place to live.”

Advocates were shocked that the ordinance actually includes being homeless, or having “no other place to live” as itself a criterion for arrest. Advocates argue that this ordinance, like its predecessors, targets homeless people. The new law has been challenged in state court by defendants who were charged under the law. The court upheld the law, finding it constitutional.

Little Rock, AR.
The city’s agenda with regard to homeless people has become more aggressive and blatant in the following incidents:

The only day shelter, and only place where homeless people could wash their clothes, Saint Francis House, closed in 2005 after a long history of police harassment of homeless people using that facility, as well as a withdrawal of funds for its operation. When asked to comment upon the closing of Saint Francis House, Sharon Priest, a spokesperson for the Downtown Partnership, said that she was “glad” it was gone, but was still not satisfied, because of “that soup kitchen [Stewpot] which is right there.”

Other reports compiled by Hunger-Free Arkansas indicate the criminalization of homeless men and women throughout the city. In a case of illegal search and seizure, a state trooper illegally searched and detained a homeless man, by claiming he suspected the homeless man was dealing drugs. The state trooper arrested the individual, who spent the night in jail and missed work the next day. The homeless man had no record of any drug-related offenses. Upon release from prison, only his driver’s license was returned. He did not receive his wallet or other property before he was told to leave. Due to the arrest, the homeless man was suspended from work for 30 days and was taunted by employees for having to spend the night in jail.

In another incident, two homeless men reported officers of the Little Rock Police Department, in separate incidents, had kicked them out of the Little Rock Bus Station. Both men were holding valid tickets and transfers. Despite showing the police their tickets, both men were told that although the buses they were awaiting would arrive within 30 minutes, they could not wait on the premises because they were loitering. The police subsequently evicted the men. In some instances, others have been told that they could not wait at the bus station “because you are homeless.”
For more information on cities that persecute the homeless click here.

On March 30, the Congressional Caucus on Homelessness hosted a briefing on family homelessness:”A Growing Epidemic: Homeless Children, Youth and Families.” The briefing was held in collaboration with a coalition of advocates including The National Center. Highlights included newly introduced legislation, the “Educational Success for Children and Youth Without Homes Act of 2011.” This bill amends the McKinney-Vento Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program and Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It promotes school stability; improves access to transportation; increases school districts’ ability to identify and serve homeless children; and increases access to early childhood education, summer school, before and after-school programs, and other educational opportunities. Learn more from NAEHCY.

Under McKinney-Vento, school districts must: appoint a McKinney-Vento liaison; identify homeless children and youths; implement a coordinated system for ensuring that homeless children and youths are advised of their rights, are immediately enrolled, and are provided necessary services, including transportation to and from the child’s school of origin, as well as special education, gifted and talented services, etc.; document that written notice of rights has been provided; prohibit schools from segregating homeless children; and identify and remove barriers that may cause difficulties in the educational success of homeless children and youths.

The McKinney-Vento Act also guarantees that homeless students have the right to continue attending their school of origin. School of origin is defined as the school that the child or youth attended when permanently housed or the school in which the child or youth was last enrolled. For example, if a child was attending school in District A while permanently housed but during the school year became homeless and was living in a shelter in a different district, the school in District A would be the school of origin.

Unfortunately, many school districts ignore the McKinney-Vento Act and continue to discriminate and criminalize homeless students and their parents.

Homeless woman prosecuted for enrolling son in Connecticut school

Connecticut authorities recently filed theft charges against Tanya McDowell, a homeless woman, alleging that she used a false address to enroll her son in a higher-income school district, The Stamford Advocate reported. If she’s convicted, McDowell may end up in jail for as many as 20 years and pay a $15,000 fine for the crime.

McDowell is a homeless single mother from Bridgeport who used to work in food services, is now at the center of one of the very few false address cases in the Norwalk, CT, school district that is being handled in criminal court–rather than between the parent and school.

Authorities are accusing McDowell of enrolling her 5-year-old son in nearby Norwalk schools by using the address of a friend. (Her friend has also been evicted from public housing for letting McDowell use her address.)

McDowell says she stayed in a Norwalk homeless shelter sometimes–but she didn’t register there, which would have made her son eligible to attend the school. “I had no idea whatsoever that if you enroll your child in another school district, it becomes a crime,” the 33-year-old told The Stamford Advocate.

According to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, if a dispute arises between a school district and a homeless family regarding school placement, the child must be immediately enrolled in the school of the parent’s choice (usually, the school of origin) until the dispute is resolved.

It is very important that the child not be kept out of school while the dispute is being resolved. Each school district must have a written dispute resolution policy in place. For more information on this issue in your state please click here.

Tonya McDowell, 33, whose last known address was 66 Priscilla St., Bridgeport, was charged with first-degree larceny and conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny for allegedly stealing $15,686 from Norwalk schools. (The amount the school alleges is the cost for her 5 year old son’s education.)

She was released after posting a $25,000 bond. McDowell’s babysitter, Ana Rebecca Marques, was also evicted from her Roodner Court public housing apartment for providing documents to enroll the child at Brookside Elementary School.

She said she knew a man who owned a home on Priscilla Street and he allowed her to sleep at the home at night, but she had to leave the home during the day until he returned from work.

She also acknowledged that she stays from time to time at the Norwalk Emergency Shelter when she has nowhere else to stay.
McDowell also admitted that Marques was her son’s babysitter from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. after the boy got out of school.

After the Norwalk Housing Authority became aware that Marques helped McDowell by providing documents needed to get McDowell’s son into Brookside, Marques was evicted from her apartment in January.

The school system always speculates that students are attending Norwalk schools from outside the district, and they hire private investigators to look into the allegations. This is the district’s way of cracking down on this.

Norwalk Board of Education Chairman Jack Chiaramonte expressed surprise at McDowell’s arrest and the investigation that led to it. “I don’t get that at all,” Chiaramonte said. “Usually when they find a kid out of district, they send him back. I have never heard of people being arrested for it, but I am not sure of the law. For my understanding, whenever we find someone from another district we send them back.”

Mayor Richard Moccia said that he was aware that an investigation was proceeding in the case and that an arrest was possible and said, “This now sends a message to other parents that may have been living in other towns and registering their kids with phony addresses.”

Homeless Children Denied Equal Access to Education in Hawaii

Homeless parents and children face innumerable barriers when they try to access education in the Hawaii public school system. Alice Greenwood, is one of eight plaintiffs named in a lawsuit who is a homeless parent with physical disabilities whose 6-year-old child missed 33 days of school last year because state officials failed to provide transportation. She said, “Every child deserves an education. He shouldn’t be punished just because he’s homeless. It’s not his fault.”

Olivé Kaleuati and Venise Lewis reported similar problems. School officials refused to allow Kaleuati’s children to enroll because they were unable to provide a permanent address or moved out of the school area. As a result, the children were forced to miss school or change schools. Lewis reported numerous incidences where her children had to skip school because she had no money to pay for bus fare.

Plaintiffs repeatedly plead with school officials for help – only to be threatened or ignored. Tragically, these examples are typical of the problems reported by homeless parents and children throughout the state.

Calling the state of Hawaii’s treatment of homeless children a travesty, the American Civil Liberties Union joined other civil rights groups and attorneys in filing a class action lawsuit challenging the state’s failure to provide homeless children with equal access to public education.

The lawsuit – filed on behalf of the homeless parents and their children – charges state officials with ignoring their legal obligations to provide homeless children with equal access to a free and appropriate public education in violation of the McKinney-Vento Act. The lawsuit also charges state officials with violating constitutional requirements to provide equal access to public education without regard to the status of homelessness.

All of this points to one of the biggest reasons why we must overhaul how we fund the American public education system. It makes no sense to deny children — especially those from the poorest households — the ability to get a high-quality education. Yet this will continue as long as school funding remains in a black hole in which the state funds large portions of the cost, while the flow of local dollars allows for districts to oppose expansive school choices and shortchange children.

In Connecticut, for example, state revenues account for only 38 percent of all school spending, well below the 48 percent national average (in Norwalk, the state contributes just 22 percent).

If Connecticut took over full funding, it could allow for more-expansive school choices and ultimately, hold failing districts such as Bridgeport accountable for its academic neglect.

We all want better lives for our children than what we had. Parents deserve the ability to give their children opportunities for success in life. De-criminalization of homeless parents, expanding school choices, and ending zip code education is needed as part of homelessness reform.

The Criminalization of Homelessness report comes out every two years, in January. The entire report is available on NCH’s website.

On Sunday, March 6th, 60 Minutes aired a segment about the impact the recession has had on families and children. It featured the efforts of Seminole County Schools’ homeless education program and its school district homeless liaison, Beth Davalos.

After the program aired Seminole County was inundated with calls from people asking how they could help. Although this has been an enormous problem in our country for years, most people were shocked to find out that this was going on in a country so rich with resources.
I was shocked to hear that so many people were unaware of the homeless problem among youth and school children.

Do we still hold to the stereotype that homeless people are lazy, drug addicts living off of our tax dollars?

Could it be that so many of us are so wrapped up in our own little world of iPhones, Kindels, and plasma TVs that those who struggle with day to day necessities become invisible to us?

National statistics report the number of homeless kids at more than 1.5 million. More than 500 thousand are still under the age of 15, and some are as young as nine!

As responsible people we should try to reach these kids! We should try and try again. And if we commit ourselves to stepping out of our comfort zone to help just one homeless family we may never know, that a few years from now, a youngster was able to leave the streets because of the commitment and work we did today.

The single greatest need, for homeless and street kids is our continuous caring and real support. We must convince them that we care, and we want to help them get off the streets. Don’t give up. They need us!

13 homeless youth die every day!

How Many Children and Youth Experience Homelessness?
Final national numbers for the 2008-2009 school year have not yet been compiled by the U.S. Department of Education. According to the most recent federal data, in the 2008-2009 school year, 954,914 homeless children and youth were enrolled in public schools.

This is a 20 percent increase from the 2007-2008 school year, and a 41% increase from the 2006-2007 school year. It is important to note that this number is not an exact estimate of child and youth homelessness; in fact, it is an underestimate, because not all school districts reported data to the U.S. Department of Education, and because the data collected represents only those children identified and enrolled in school.

Finally, the number does not include all preschool-age children, or any infants and toddlers. The economic downturn and foreclosure crisis have had a significant impact on homelessness: according to a national survey, one in five responding school districts reported having more homeless children in the Fall of 2008 than over the course of the entire 2007-2008 school year.

Recent research indicates that child homelessness may be more widespread than school data suggests. A study published in the August 2009 edition of the American Journal of Public Health found that seven percent of fifth-graders and their families have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.

How Does Homelessness Affect Children and Youth’s Education?
With life filled with such uncertainty and loss, school should be a place of safety, structure, and opportunity. Yet homeless children and youth face difficult barriers to basic education.

These barriers include being unable to meet enrollment requirements. (Providing proof of residency, legal guardianship, and school health records.) Lack of transportation; lack of school supplies and clothing; and poor health, fatigue, and hunger are also a big problem for these children. When these barriers are not addressed, homeless children and youth often are unable to attend, or even enroll in, school, which prevents them from obtaining the education that is both their legal right and their best hope of escaping poverty as adults.

What Educational Rights Do Homeless Children and Youth Have?
Subtitle VII-B of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (referred to as the McKinney-Vento Act) is a federal law designed to remove barriers to education created by homelessness, and thereby increase the enrollment, attendance, and success of children and youth experiencing homelessness. Key provisions of the Act include:
* Students who are homeless can remain in one school, even if their temporary living situation is located in another school district or attendance area, if that is in their best interest. Schools must provide transportation.
* Children and youth who are homeless can enroll in school and begin attending immediately, even if they cannot produce normally required documents, such as birth certificates, proof of guardianship, immunization records, or proof of residency.
* Every school district must designate a homeless liaison to ensure the McKinney-Vento Act is implemented in the district. Homeless liaisons have many critical responsibilities, including identification, enrollment, and collaboration with community agencies.
* Every state must designate a state coordinator to ensure the McKinney-Vento Act is implemented in the state.
* Both state coordinators and homeless liaisons must collaborate with other agencies serving homeless children, youth, and families to enhance educational attendance and success.
* State departments of education and school districts must review and revise their policies and practices to eliminate barriers to the enrollment and retention in school of homeless children and youth.

What Can I Do to Help?
There are many ways to help children and youth experiencing homelessness:
Volunteer or donate locally
Every community is unique, so it is important to learn the needs that have been identified by your local school district and by community service providers.
Contact your School District
Every school district is required to designate a local homeless education liaison, which is responsible for coordinating services and support for homeless students attending in the district. You can contact your local liaison by calling your school district, or you may contact your State Coordinator for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.
Contact a Community Service Provider in your area
To find local homeless service providers in your community, please visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Continuum of Care webpage http://www.hudhre.info/index.cfm?do=viewCocContacts or the National Coalition for the Homeless’ national, state, and local directories. http://www.nationalhomeless.org/directories/index.html