Posts Tagged ‘Schools’

In the aftermath of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., many are considering whether changes to America’s gun laws are needed.

I realize this may be controversial to some, but I believe we should be more concerned about the type of people who commit these heinous acts than the type of weapons they use to commit them.

When I grew up in an age when it was socially acceptable for a parent to occasionally use physical punishment to correct their children. There were a few times that I felt my dad’s belt on my backside and I can’t remember a single time that I was afraid of my dad’s belt. But I can clearly remember my fear of my dad when he became angry at something I had done to invite his wrath.

Why is it that we fear an object or thing more than we fear the one in control of that object or thing? Many are deathly afraid of tornados and hurricanes but have no fear of God, who controls them.

According to the FBI Crime Stats, the number of murders committed annually with hammers and knives far outnumbers murders committed with a rifle. A handgun is the weapon most often used in crimes. But of the 6,220 murders committed with handguns, most were likely obtained illegally.

According to reports in both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, millions of mentally ill people could pass a gun background check today, because many states simply don’t bother submitting mental-health records to the FBI.

Consider the following  stats:

  • Virginia Tech: Seung-Hui Cho, 23, who killed 32 people and wounded 17 in Blacksburg, Va., in 2007 before killing himself, had a long history of mental illness. Cho was diagnosed with severe social anxiety disorder as a teenager. A judge in 2005 found that Cho presented “an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness” and ordered him to receive outpatient psychiatric treatment.
  • Tucson: Jared Lee Loughner, 24, who is serving a life sentence without parole for killing six people and wounding 19 others in 2011, was diagnosed with schizophrenia by a court-appointed psychiatrist. He also suffered from depression in high school.
  • Aurora: James Eagen Holmes, 24, who is accused of killing 12 and injuring 58 people at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater in July, has been described as mentally ill by his defense attorney. Prosecutors presented their case against Holmes at a preliminary hearing Monday.

Police have not revealed whether Adam Lanza had additional mental health problems. Yet the scale and nature of the shooting lead many to the inescapable conclusion that mental illness will be a large piece of the puzzle, as it has been with other mass shootings.

Mental health screening, early intervention, evidence-based mental health treatment and services, and family education and support will be a great help in alleviating this type of violence. But more concern should be placed on a bigger problem:

As is common for this type of evil, some have asked questions like, “Why did God allow this to happen?” or “Why didn’t God stop this evil?” The answer is that God has allowed mankind to reap the consequences of sin. Anyone who has had to deal with a rebellious son or daughter will tell you there are times when you just throw up your hands and say, “ Since you refuse to listen to me, just go and do what you want!” I sometimes imagine God doing the same thing with us.

This is not to say that the staff or the children killed in Newtown were in any way guilty of any particular sin that led to their deaths. The tragedy of sin is that the innocent often suffer due to the wickedness of others – As in the cases where children suffer abuse at the hands of their parents.

Romans 6:23 declares, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Sin always brings death – spiritually, and sometimes physically. Only Jesus Christ can truly transform a person and bring true peace and purpose to their life.

The problem is not just guns or mental illness. Disarming law-abiding citizens or institutionalizing everyone with a mental illness will do little to protect the public. Some people will still find a way to kill others.

What then is the solution to gun violence? Pray for God’s guidance and protection. But we must also pray for a true spiritual revival and return to God’s standard of morality. People who follow Biblical principles do not commit mass murder. The Bible teaches in Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” It is ludicrous to expect God to bless us when we as a nation have rejected Him and embraced sin. While not every disaster will be adverted, as mankind is inherently wicked, but if we, as a nation, returned to God and followed His principals for living, much suffering and death could be avoided.

For more information on Mental Illness click HERE

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:

Praying to the Father

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall recompense thee. -Matthew 6:6

After Jesus had called His first disciples, He gave them their first public teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. There he expounded to them the kingdom of God, its laws and its life. In that kingdom God is not only King, but Father; He not only gives all, but is Himself all. It naturally came as a matter of course that the revelation of prayer and the prayer-life was a part of the Messiah’s teaching concerning the New Kingdom he came to set up. Neither Moses nor the prophets gave any commands or regulations with regard directly to the duty of prayer; it is only Jesus who teaches us to pray.

And the first thing the Lord teaches His disciples is that they must have a secret place for prayer; everyone must have some solitary spot where he can be alone with God. Every teacher must have a schoolroom. We have learned to know and accept Jesus as our only teacher in the school of prayer. He has already taught us that worship is no longer confined to times and places; that worship, spiritual true worship, is a thing of the spirit and the life; the whole man must worship in spirit and truth. And yet he wants each one to choose for himself the fixed spot where He can daily meet him. That inner chamber, that solitary place, is Jesus’ schoolroom. That spot may be anywhere; that spot may change from day to day but that secret place must be a quiet time in which the pupil places himself in the Master’s presence and be prepared to worship the Father. And when we’re alone in our secret place of prayer most surely, Jesus comes to us to teach us to pray.

In His first words on prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus seeks to set the inner chamber before us in its most attractive light. If we listen carefully, we soon notice what the chief thing he tells us about prayer. Three times He uses the name of Father: `Pray to thy Father;’ ‘Thy Father shall recompense thee;’ your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:8)

The first thing in closet-prayer is: I must meet my Father. Soon the light of the Father’s countenance shines in our closet-prayer. The fresh air from heaven which our Father fills us with is the atmosphere in which I am to breathe and pray. It is God’s Father-love. Thus each thought or petition we breathe out will be simple, childlike trust in the Father. This is how the Master teaches us to pray: He brings us into the Father’s living presence. What we pray there will avail much. Let us listen carefully to hear what the Lord has to say to us.

First Pray to the Father which is in secret

God is a God who hides Himself to the carnal eye. As long as in our worship of God, we are chiefly occupied with our own thoughts and, exercises we shall not meet Him who is Spirit, the unseen One. But to the man who withdraws himself from the world and man, and prepares to wait upon God alone, the Father will reveal Himself. As he forsakes and gives up and shuts out the world, and the life of the world, and surrenders himself to be led by Messiah into the secret place of God’s presence, the light of the Father’s love will rise upon him. The secrecy of the inner chamber and the closed door, the entire separation from all around us, is the only way to that inner spiritual sanctuary, the secret of God’s tabernacle, within the veil, where our spirit truly comes into contact with the invisible One.

And so we are taught, at the very outset of our search of the secret of effectual prayer is to remember that it is in the inner chamber. When we are alone with the Father is when we will learn to pray right. The Father is in secret: in these words Jesus teaches us where He is waiting for us and where He is always to be found. Christians often complain that private prayer is not what it should be. They feel weak and sinful, the heart is cold and dark; it is as if they have so little to pray and have little or no faith or joy. They are discouraged and kept from prayer by the thought that they cannot come to the Father as they ought to or as they wish.

Child of God! Listen to your Teacher. He tells you that when you go to private prayer your first thought must be: The Father is in secret, the Father waits for me there. Just because your heart is cold and prayerless, get into the presence of the loving Father. As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. (Psalms 103:13) Do not be thinking of how little you have to bring to God, but of how much He wants to give you. Just place yourself before Him and look up into His face; think of His love, His wonderful, tender, pitying love. Just tell Him how sinful and cold and dark your life is. The secret place is where we can be totally honest with our Father.

Here Jesus assures us that secret prayer cannot be fruitless; its blessing will show itself in our life. All we have to do is get alone with God in secret, to entrust our life before men to Him; And He will reward us openly; He will see to it that the answer to prayer be made manifest in His blessing upon us. It is the Father’s loving heart that will give light and warmth to yours. Do what Jesus says: Just shut the door, and pray to thy Father which is in secret. Is it not wonderful to be able to get alone with God – the infinite God? And then to look up and say: My Abba Father! My heavenly Daddy!

And now, all who have entered the school of prayer; take these lessons, practice them, and trust Messiah to perfect you in them. Dwell much in the inner chamber, with the door shut from men and the world, and shut up with God. It is there that the Father waits for you; it is there that Jesus will teach you to pray. To be alone in secret with the Father is your highest joy. To be assured that the Father will openly reward the secret prayer so that it cannot remain unblessed is your strength day by day. And to know that the Father knows that you need what you ask is your liberty to bring every need, with the assurance that your God will supply it according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Looking back on my life I am amazed at how long it took me to understand prayer. For many years after my conversion I struggled with unanswered prayer and my inability to hear from God. My prayer life was not unlike many believers today; unaware and ignorant of the precious gift our loving Lord has given us by allowing us a way to come into the very presence of the Almighty God, Creator of the universe!

My prayers at best were shallow, selfish, self-serving, and earthly. They were almost always a one way conversation. More like giving God directions than prayers. I rarely heard God’s voice because I was too busy talking to listen to what God had to say. I’ve since learned that prayer is an intimate two way conversation between the Lord and me. It is not a giant gift shop in heaven where I simply place my order and demand the delivery of my goods by quoting a few scriptures. Nor is it a celestial complaint department, that if I whine loud enough and long enough, God will have no choice but to grant my request. God designed prayer as a way for us to communicate with him and him with us; and so that we can draw closer to him and him to us.

King David knew the importance of a two way communication with God. He was constantly in contact with God. By reading the Psalms you can see the close relationship he had with God. God considered David to be a man after his own heart. (I Sam. 13:14, Acts 13:22) Why? Because through his intimate two way communion with God, David knew God’s heart. Whenever David sinned he repented on the spot quickly because he knew that his sin separated himself from God.

God desires that kind of intimate relationship with all of his children. And what kind of child only speaks to their father to get things that they want? A selfish, self-centered child. But a child who truly loves their father desires to just spend time with him. That is the primary reason God instituted prayer for us. That we might spend time with our heavenly Father and experience the abundant love that he has for each and every one of us. For each of us, that will involve not only talking to God and sharing with him our heart, but also being still before him and allowing him to speak to us.

But what if I don’t know how to listen to God’s voice? How do I know for certain that it’s God’s voice that I’m hearing and not my own thoughts? How do I distinguish between God’s voice, Satan, and my own thoughts? The Bible teaches us to test all things and to hold fast to what is good. (I Thess. 5:21) our only standard by which to test all things is God’s Holy Scriptures.

Sam Shoemaker, one of the original founders of AA, taught that by using Psalms 15, Matthew 5:3-11, and I Corinthians 13:4-8, we can understand that everything that God does will promote four absolute truths that Jesus and all the apostles preached and lived by. They are: Absolute purity, absolute honesty, absolute unselfishness, and absolute love.

By using these four absolutes as our standard we can know for certain if a thought is from God. Spend 30 to 60 minutes every day silently before God and ask him to speak to you. Write down all your thoughts on paper. At the end of your quiet time compare those thoughts with scripture and the four absolutes. If the thoughts that you’ve written down promote absolute purity, honesty, unselfishness, and love, then you know that those thoughts are from God. If not, then you can disregard them as your own thoughts. If they are from God, then God has just spoken to you; and if God has just spoken to you, you now have the choice of obeying him.

He may ask you to do something as simple as asking forgiveness from someone you were short with, or something as difficult as moving across the country or across the world to serve him better. Don’t think it disrespectful or a sign of a lack of faith by asking God about something several times you feel he’s already told you to do in order to be sure it’s from God. We serve a loving and merciful God who won’t force us to do anything we’re not ready for.

Each of us will know in our own hearts if we’re waiting on God or if we’re being disobedient to God’s leading. But by using God’s Holy Scriptures and his four absolute truths we can know for certain what God’s will is.

That is the ministry of the Messiah in a nutshell. He prayed, he listened to the Father, and then he obeyed. Look at the results of Jesus’ prayers: (Luke 6:12-49) Jesus prayed all night. The next day not only did he choose his disciples and healed multitudes of people, but he also preached a sermon so filled with God’s spirit that his discourse alone probably brought multitudes to believe in him. (Luke 5:16-25) After Jesus had been in the wilderness praying, he returned and was able to heal a man paralyzed and thereby glorify God. (Matt.14:22-33) After feeding over 5,000 people Jesus went off by himself to a mountain to pray. Later he walked on top of the sea. Today unbelievers as well as God’s own are familiar with the story of Peter walking on water.

There are many other examples of Jesus praying, listening to God, and obeying. His greatest prayer of all was, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)  Even up to the moment of his death Jesus continued to commune with his Father through prayer when he cried, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (v.4) That same spirit allowed Jesus to perform the mighty works of God, heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons, is the same spirit that works in believers today and is available to us through prayer. But there are some requirements for answered prayer that we should be aware of.

Forgiveness…. (Matt. 6:14, 18:19-20) We must come to God with a forgiving heart. If we hold unforgiveness against someone in our heart God cannot forgive us and we separate ourselves from him by our sin.

Repentance.….. (Luke 18:10-14) If we pray with an unrepentant heart all we do is make noise. We may impress others around us, but I guarantee that God is not the least bit impressed.

Pray believing….. (Matt. 21:22, Mark 11:23-24) Why ask God for something if you don’t believe He’ll do what you ask? Don’t bother Him with your faithless prattle. Instead, be honest with God and tell Him that your faith is small and weak and ask him to increase your faith and help your unbelief.

Pray in God’s will…. (I John 5:14) This is where the scriptures and the four absolutes will lead you to know God’s will. The only way to know God’s will is to know God’s heart and that only comes from spending time with Him in your secret place and listening to His voice.

Scripture tells us that if we ask anything in Jesus’s name he will do it. (John 14:13) Does that mean that God will give me a nice new car or a new home? It does if that’s God’s will and if you believe it will promote the four absolutes. The Bible teaches that God will supply all of our needs, but be careful to differentiate between wants and needs. I’ve known many believers who have set themselves up for failure by believing God to supply their wants rather than their needs.

Thanksgiving…. (I Tim. 2:1-3, Phil. 4:6) Jesus taught his disciples to pray in Luke 11: 1-4 but then he gave them an example of prayer. (v.9-13) And with that scripture in mind, if you, being evil know how to teach your children thankfulness, how much more should you be thankful to your heavenly Father? Most of us who have children teach them from an early age to say thank-you for everything from a glass of water to an expensive birthday gift from Grandma. Should our heavenly Father expect less from us; in whom we live and breathe and have our being? The one in whom we owe our salvation, to? Yes, our very lives?

Unceasing….. (I Thess. 5:17) This may seem to be a difficult task, (if not impossible) but to pray without ceasing simply means to constantly be thinking of God. If you’ve ever had a sick child you know that you can go through your day of normal routine; do work at the office, balance the check book, pay bills, etc. and still be constantly thinking of your sick child. Praying without ceasing is like that in the fact that even when going about your normal business of the day you can still constantly have your mind on God.

The most intimate way we can share our feelings with each other is by way of communication. We tell each other how we feel; what makes us happy, or sad, or angry. We bless and encourage with our speech, i.e.; our communication. I’ve met men who weren’t worth a nickel walk around like they owned the world because of an uplifting word from a loving wife. Our speech; our communication, is what connects us, attracts us, and deepens our relationships with others. So it is with God too. He desires to have that deep relationship with all of his children and share his heart with us. He wants to not only reveal his will to us, but also his abundant love and mercy and grace that he’s patiently waiting to give to each and every one of us.

Lord God, King of the universe. With my whole heart I bless you for the appointment of the inner chamber, as the school where you meet each of your students alone, and reveal yourself to me. Abba Father! Strengthen my faith so that in your tender love and kindness, even though I feel sinful or troubled, the first instinctive thought may be to go where I know my Father waits for me, and where prayer never can go unblessed. Let the thought that you know my need before I ask, bring me, in great restfulness of faith, to trust that you will give what your child requires. And let the place of secret prayer become to me the most beloved spot of earth.

And, Lord I pray that you would bless the closets of your believing people everywhere. Let the wonderful revelation of a Father’s tenderness free all Christians from every thought of secret prayer as a duty or a burden, and lead them to regard it as the highest privilege of their life, a joy and a blessing. Bring back all who are discouraged, because they cannot find how to bring you into their prayer. And give them understanding to know that they only have to come with their emptiness to you who has all to give, and delights to give it. Help your children not to focus on what they lack to bring the Father, but what the Father waits to give to them. Let this be their one thought.

Especially bless the inner chamber of all your servants who are working for you, as the place where your truth and your grace is revealed to them, where they are daily anointed with fresh oil, where their strength is renewed, and the blessings are received in faith, with which they are to bless their fellow-men. Lord, draw us all into the closet that brings us ever nearer to you. Amen.

For more on prayer read Andrew Murray’s book, With Christ in the School of Prayer

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 or the National Coalition for the Homeless’ national, state, and local directories.