Homelessness among students is on the rise. During the 2017-2018 school year, 1.5 million U.S. public school students experienced homelessness, according to the National Center for Homeless Education. This staggering number is a harsh reality that IHNSC experiences on a daily basis as we work to ensure that education for the children that come through our emergency shelter is made a top priority. The routine and familiarity of a school environment is sometimes the only stability and source of support that children have during the crisis of family homelessness.
We utilize the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act to ensure that all IHNSC children receive the education that they are entitled to through transportation and advocacy. This federal law enables students to remain in their school of origin with the districts providing transportation. It also requires school districts to enroll homeless students without the required paperwork such as birth certificates and immunization records. Working through the various Boards Of Education, case managers set up transportation through verifying the student’s address and coordinating pick and drop off times from our Flynn Day Center. Medical appointments are established to get immunization records and up-to-date wellness checkups, while paperwork is submitted to obtain birth certificates and social security cards. Free or reduced lunch programs are accessed, while our congregational network and community partnerships assist with school clothing, book bags, school supplies and pro-bono tutoring. Advocacy to address truancy issues is provided and healthy school routines help establish much needed structure. Our Sound Minds program is put in place to address the emotional needs of our students in order for them to learn coping skills that will promote healthy behavior and increase school productivity.
With the lack of stable housing greatly affecting a student’s ability to learn, it is crucial that we continue to identify barriers that prevent education instability for our emergency shelter, Sunrise House and Phase 2 children. Over the past 10 years, homelessness amongst students has risen by 70%. By having advocacy and supports in place for our homeless and low-income students, we are hopeful that students will thrive.