Menominee Indian School District, Wisconsin
The Menominee Indian School District (MISD) is located on the Menominee Indian Reservation in rural Wisconsin. As a tribal community, cultural connections are important and the district strives to serve students and families through a network of relationships. The district has placed a strong emphasis on identifying students experiencing homelessness, and currently identifies about 10% of the total student population as eligible for McKinney-Vento services. When COVID shut down in-person learning, the district quickly realized that school is the main source of safety and stability for students experiencing homelessness, as well as the primary place for students to access food.
In response, MISD used ARP-HCY funds to set up a support room at the high school where students experiencing homelessness can access washers and dryers, as well as hygiene supplies and shelf-stable food. The district evaluated the needs of students and families and determined that it will provide these resources 12 months of the year, remaining open all summer long. This support room also provides a place for students to connect with school staff.
Using district funds, MISD has hired Student Success Mentors in each building, and ARP-HCY funds pay for a portion of the mentors’ salary in order to specifically support students experiencing homelessness. Every student is assigned to a Success Mentor, and for many students experiencing homelessness, the Mentor checks in daily to ensure that needs are being met and relationships are being established.
The district also plans to use ARP-HCY funds to purchase prepaid cell phones for students and passes for community transportation so that students can access school buildings and school staff all year round.
“Because we are a tribal school and families are so interconnected, relationships are crucial. We are careful not to put all our eggs in one basket but to create positions that can continue long after funding ends. We are thoughtful and intentional about funding streams, and know that the work we start with ARP-HCY will continue after the funding period is over.”
-Kate Mikle, Principal, Menominee Indian High School
Ridgefield School District, Washington
When Ridgefield School District learned they’d be receiving ARP-HCY funds, the Assistant Director of Social Emotional Learning began to survey school staff, including counselors, administrators, connection mentors (social-emotional learning support staff), and the family resource center coordinator. District staff identified key needs of mental health services, tutoring, and transportation. The Assistant Director then surveyed every family identified as experiencing homelessness in the district. Families identified key needs of not feeling connected to school and needing more communication between home and school. The Assistant Director met with each student identified as an unaccompanied homeless youth at the high school level and learned that needs would have to be met on an individual basis.
Based on survey results, Camp Cope-A-Lot, an online curriculum, will be purchased to support mental health, stress and anxiety. Camp Cope-A-Lot is an online program to help kids learn coping strategies to manage stress and anxiety. Because the district has 1:1 chromebooks, students can access Camp Cope-A-Lot both at home and at school. In addition, the district also plans to purchase a family account that aligns with the student’s account.
Since the need for greater connections between school and home was identified, the district is working on a plan to better engage families through regular free and fun family events called “Growing Spudders”, modeled after an existing program at the district’s early learning center. The district plans to use ARP-HCY funds to purchase educational games for the family events, as well as use the events to provide opportunities to foster community. These events will also support increased identification, as more families are connecting with school and the homeless liaison.
In order to meet the individual needs of the district’s unaccompanied homeless youth, the district plans to use pre-paid Visa cards. The Assistant Director will be responsible for tracking the use of the pre-paid cards, including who received it, for what purpose, and other district tracking requirements.
“I always go back to my own lived experience. I would have attended school more if I would have had coping strategies to manage my stress and anxiety about missing school because of my living situation. I want to make sure to build connections, empathy and understanding between school and families. These funds are helping to make it possible.”
– Kataira Smith, Assistant Director of Social Emotional Learning and Homeless Liaison
New Philadelphia City Schools, Ohio
New Philadelphia City Schools has recently experienced an influx of students arriving from Guatemala. In a district of 3,100 students, hundreds are identified as English learners and unaccompanied homeless youth. These students arrive with limited educational experience and different educational expectations from their home country. This often means that in rain or snow, students arrive late or miss school altogether, as may be typical in their home country. In addition, New Philadelphia has a walk zone of one mile, and many of these students live just within the walk zone. The school social worker and the Federal Programs Coordinator collaborated to consider how ARP-HCY funds could support the attendance of this group of Guatemalan students identified as unaccompanied homeless youth. Using data, they determined that many of their unaccompanied middle and high school English Learners were not attending because of the lack of busing in the walk zone, and students simply aren’t wanting to walk that far so early in the morning or in inclement weather.
As a result, the district decided to use ARP-HCY funds to purchase bikes to break down the barriers of attendance for the Guatemalan students and other students identified as experiencing homelessness. In addition, ARP-HCY funds will be used for minor remodeling of an existing on-site modular building to create a space for meeting student needs, including storage bins and clothing racks to organize student supplies. The modular will house the bikes for students, as well as hygiene and school supplies, clothing, shoes, and other basic needs for students experiencing homelessness. ARP-HCY funds will also cover the salary of a part-time staff person to organize and manage this space, providing a one-stop shop for students and school staff to meet the needs of students and provide bikes for transportation. The district will monitor the attendance of students utilizing bikes for transportation to determine the success of this model. Because there are many students in the district who ride bikes to school, this mode of transportation will not stigmatize the students experiencing homelessness. Finally, the district anticipates using ARP-HCY funds to purchase prepaid cell phones for students to maintain better connections and engagement with school.
“We are excited to get this up and running and to really be able to help these kids. It will be possible because of the extra ARP-HCY funds. Many of these kids are largely unsupervised because they are unaccompanied homeless youth, but they are still expected to attend school. We believe providing bikes will help make that happen.”
– Laurie Hall, Federal Programs Coordinator
Durham Public Schools, North Carolina
Durham Public Schools utilizes multiple funding sources to provide extensive supports and services to their students experiencing homelessness. Using Title I, Part A funds, the LEA pays for the homeless liaison salary, as well as a McKinney-Vento social worker to identify and support students which, pre-pandemic, numbered over 1,000 . Title I, Part A funds also support salaries and transportation for the LEA’s tutoring program for identified students. Durham Public Schools also receive McKinney-Vento subgrant funds, which are used to provide tutoring and summer camp programming.
With the LEA’s ARP-HCY funds, the LEA is prioritizing their focus on high school students. Unaccompanied homeless youth will have access to academic tutoring, ACT and SAT prep, FAFSA, and college essay writing support. The LEA is using funds to hire a youth case manager to intentionally meet the needs of these youth. Unaccompanied youth will also have access to two years of mental health support through the district.
In addition, the LEA is expanding tutoring at the elementary and middle school levels, bringing tutors into the buildings with the highest need to ensure direct access.
Durham currently has one shelter that youth over 18 can access. The LEA is using ARP-HCY funds to create a study space at the shelter to support re-engagement of youth and access to educational programming.
“I’m excited because if it had not been for ARP-HCY funding, there is a lot we wouldn’t be able to do!”
– Ebony Ross, Homeless Liaison
Akron Public Schools, Ohio
Akron Public Schools (APS) typically receives McKinney-Vento subgrant funds and has a robust program to support students experiencing homelessness, providing intake staff to focus on identification and academic advocates for case management. Using ESSER funds, Akron Public Schools was able to increase staff capacity serving as academic advocates for students experiencing homelessness.
In deciding how to use ARP-HCY funds, APS prioritized sustainability in order to maintain programming beyond ARP funds. APS used ARP-HCY I funds for supplies to support attendance and engagement, such as hygiene products, clothing and food vouchers, but also contracted with the central intake office of their local United Way. With this contract, families have direct access to a housing navigator. The housing navigator also will be a point person for school staff when supporting families with housing instability. APS will collect and analyze data to evaluate this partnership, and pursue opportunities for funding through the United Way after ARP-HCY funds are no longer available.
Like many school districts across the nation, Akron Public Schools saw a decrease in numbers of students identified as homeless due to the challenges of identification during the pandemic and remote learning. Therefore, they also will use ARP-HCY funds for targeted marketing. APS has a contract with a local billboard company for four weeks of advertising now, and 4 weeks at the beginning of the year to increase awareness and identification of students.
In addition, ARP-HCY II funds will be used for professional development for staff. Using McKinney-Vento subgrant carryover funds, APS initiated the development of an online program to provide a simulation of homelessness and housing instability. ARP-HCY II funds will support the completion of the project, as well as support the use in schools and the community.
ARP-HCY II funds also are supporting the development of two important new partnerships to meet the needs of children and youth in APS. First, APS is partnering with Legal Aid to support families in navigating and working through housing and eviction needs, as well as other legal needs affecting housing. APS will conduct a legal assessment for families needing services, and refer them to the Legal Aid office for continuing work. This partnership will include both attorney hours and training for staff. Second, in addition to the APS partnership with Head Start, APS will begin to provide SPARK, a preschool program designed to support the kindergarten readiness of 3- and 4-year-olds. Through SPARK, a part-time staff person will provide curriculum and support twice a month in the homes of 25 early learners each year. Using data to demonstrate need and effectiveness, APS will look for funding sources through community partnerships to continue SPARK after ARP-HCY funds are no longer available.
“It’s different to have funding, in addition to the regular McKinney-Vento grant, so it’s a nice ‘problem’ to have. We are really looking at what needs we have, and what we can do better.”
-Shannah Carino, District Homeless Liaison and McKinney-Vento Specialist
Marion County Schools, Alabama
Marion County Schools are leveraging local, state, and federal funds to provide layered supports for students experiencing homelessness, with a focus on basic needs, mental health, and supplemental instruction. In this predominantly rural area, there are fewer service agencies than in urban areas, making school the main provider of basic needs for students experiencing homelessness. After reviewing existing services provided through strong community partnerships, the school district decided to prioritize basic needs as a use of ARP-HCY funds. Marion County Schools have also been intentional about ensuring that students experiencing homelesness have access to all district-provided supports. For example, the mental health coordinator partners closely with the homeless liaison to ensure students experiencing homelessness have access to mental health supports provided to all students. School counselors are points of contact across 10 schools in 5 communities, allowing the homeless liaison to focus on working with community partners. The homeless liaison salary is paid out of the Title I, Part A homeless reservation, and additional counselor time is provided through the school district’s ARP ESSER funds. This layered support makes it possible for the homeless liaison to use her time to go out to schools and connect with community partners.
“You may have heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. That is our approach to providing for our homeless students. We take a personal approach to make sure identified students have the same opportunities as anyone else in our system. ARP-HCY funds have certainly made it possible to help ensure our mission of ‘Changing Children’s Lives’.”
-Kevin Dulaney, Federal Programs Director
Roanoke City Schools, Virginia
The Roanoke City Schools McKinney-Vento Program Coordinator is using ARP-HCY funds to increase program staff capacity. In addition to the coordinator, the program has employed a part-time staff person to provide support. Using ARP-HCY funds, the part-time position has become a full-time Outreach Specialist position to support the work of receiving referrals and determining eligibility of students. ARP-HCY funds also have been used to hire a part-time Family Outreach Specialist position to manage and distribute community donations to students and families, as well as supporting the LEAs work on chronic absenteeism with students experiencing homelessness.
Another focus of Roanoke’s ARP-HCY funding is to support unaccompanied homeless youth. Roanoke City Schools is using funds to support their “Senior Shine and Dine” event to celebrate the graduation and success of seniors identified as experiencing homleessness. ARP-HCY funds are paying for iPad purchases for seniors to work on college applications, FAFSA applications, and other postsecondary planning and transitions. The Program Coordinator is in the process of developing an additional program for seniors that will focus on independent living skills to provide tools for youth in the next stage of their college or career journey. ARP-HCY funds will pay for a school counselor to support the program outside of regular contract hours.
In addition, ARP-HCY funds have made it possible for Roanoke City Schools to hire a part-time licensed clinical social worker to support the creation of the aforementioned independent living skills program. The social worker will provide regular support and professional development to staff who experience secondary trauma from supporting McKinney-Vento students in crisis. The LEA has seen an increase in domestic violence situations as a result of the pandemic, so the social worker also will provide support to conduct an initial assessment of the family and student’s situation, as well as help accessing community organizations to support survivors of domestic violence.
The Program Coordinator will collect data on these initiatives, evaluate their effectiveness, and explore additional funding to sustain them.
“It’s too bad the additional funding is the result of a pandemic, but it’s bringing awareness to all the things we aren’t getting support for, especially with unaccompanied homeless youth. With ARP-HCY funds, I’m finally getting to try things that I’ve always wanted to do during my 19 years as the homeless liaison.”
-Malora Horn, Roanoke City Schools McKinney-Vento Program Coordinator
Wilbur Mills Education Service Cooperative, Beebe, Arkansas
The Wilbur Mills Education Service Cooperative in central Arkansas is leading a consortium of 10 school districts to use ARP-HCY funds to hire a systems navigator.The co-op staff met with the state homeless education coordinator, school district superintendents, homeless liaisons, counselors and other district staff members to determine the region’s needs. One emerging theme was the need to create and sustain a systems navigator position. The systems navigator will assist the 10 school districts in establishing community and cross-community partnerships with nonprofit organizations. The navigator also will collaborate with Every Arkansan and Bright Futures, two organizations with which the state education agency is contracting using ARP-HCY funds to develop a statewide rapid response system to meet the immediate needs of children and youth experiencing homelessness. The Wilbur Mills Education Service Cooperative systems navigator will be a two-year position and will work to create sustainable practices that will continue when ARP-HCY funding has ended.
“We are excited to be a part of this work that we know will lead to more effective and efficient services/care for our children.”
– Leasha Hayes, Wilbur Mills Education Service Cooperative
Middletown Public Schools, Middletown, Rhode Island
Using ESSER funds, Middletown Public Schools hired a full-time Family Services Coordinator due to the increased numbers of identified students experiencing homelessness, particularly among the multilingual learner population. When ARP-HCY Part I was distributed, the Family Services Coordinator began targeted communication and outreach to families to determine needs. Decisions on the best use of ARP-HCY funds were guided by these weekly communications and check-ins, during which time it became clear that families need support with food and winter clothing. The Family Services Coordinator uses ARP-HCY funds to purchase supermarket and store gift cards so families are able to purchase needed items. These gift cards are purchased in collaboration with the district business office, submitting purchase orders through existing store accounts.
In addition, the Family Services Coordinator determined that families need support with wraparound services. ARP-HCY funds are supporting after school transportation to the Boys and Girls Club for homework support and free meals so students end their days fed and with completed homework. The district is also providing mental health services in school buildings during school hours, in partnership with the community-based organization Newport Mental Health. The Family Services Coordinator hopes to use additional ARP-HCY funds to increase staff training in McKinney-Vento and best practices to support students.
“I think that the flexibility of this funding has been such a huge help to homeless liaisons. There used to be more regulations on the funding but being able to use the money to help with food, phones, taxis as well as wraparound services has meant that we can be more on the front lines helping families in unconventional ways.”
– Megan Mainzer, Family Services Coordinator