Guest BlogsWe gain invaluable insights from school district liaisons, state coordinators, service providers and young people. Here is our collection of guest blogs.
On Wednesday, May 11, SchoolHouse Connection, John Burton Advocates for Youth, and the Youth Law Center, organized a Congressional briefing in collaboration with the Offices of Representative Danny Davis and Senator Bob Casey. Senator Patty Murray was an honorary co-host. Young people with lived experience in the foster care system and with homelessness explained four higher education bills that would have a significant and positive impact on the lives and futures of young people. These young leaders also discussed the need for reform of the Chafee Education and Training Voucher Program and in the Satisfactory Academic Progress requirement for federal financial aid.
Written by John C.S. Kepner, advisor to the College Student Basic Needs Program and Trustee Board Member of Gwynedd Mercy University (GMercyU) in suburban Philadelphia. In this blog, John describes his journey of putting together a coalition of community-based organizations to address the problem of food and housing insecurity in GMercyU.
This story originally appeared on the Miami Herald. Roxana Rodriguez-Monzon is a student at Florida International University studying public policy and service, a legislative aid with SchoolHouse Connection and a student temporary employee with non-profit Miami Homes for All.
SHC is working with Florida’s Children First, Florida Youth SHINE, and many other young people, educators, and advocates on two bills to help unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness get driver licenses and car insurance, persist in postsecondary education, and access medical care. Read SHC Scholar Rebecca’s testimony about how educators helped her, and how bills before the state legislature could make a difference for other youth experiencing homelessness in Florida.
During the 2020-2021 school year, the Education Leads Home initiative awarded mini-grants to 12 state teams to build the work within their state. The initiative is focused on improving educational and life outcomes for children and youth who experience homelessness. SHC is proud of the progress made to date by state teams.
SHC Celebrates the Launch of KSU’s CARE Roadmap to Train Colleges to Support Homeless and Foster Youth
This month, KSU launches the CARE RoadMap, a customized program to provide training to colleges and universities to help students in need. At SchoolHouse Connection, we have witnessed the need for precisely this kind of coaching service: practical, detailed, supportive, and informed by direct experience. We are thrilled to support KSU’s CARE Roadmap program, and know that it will transform systems and the lives of college students across the nation.
November, both is Children’s Grief Awareness Month and includes National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week. In recognition of these twin tragedies, we interviewed Debra Albo-Steiger, CEO of Children’s Bereavement Center in Miami and former homeless liaison for Miami-Dade Public Schools, about the connection between grief and homelessness, and how school district liaisons can help grieving students.
Evictions, natural disasters, pandemic-related job loss, and increased family stress have the potential to cause unprecedented levels of child, youth, and family homelessness this school year. Here, we break down five facts every educator needs to know about child and youth homelessness and action steps for supporting students as they return to the classroom.
Written by Earl Edwards. “As a researcher, I have spent the past six years analyzing the intersections of youth homelessness and racial inequity and have found that for several reasons, many Black youth are not disclosing their homelessness status, and attempts to identify and support them continue to fall short.” This blog describes how Black community-based organizations are underutilized resources for helping Black youth thrive academically, socially, and emotionally, especially those experiencing homelessness.
The American Rescue Plan: Building the Bridge to Education and Beyond for Students Experiencing Homelessness
“I can remember being a young teen, living with my mother and six siblings and being locked out of the house until the early hours of the morning on multiple occasions. Abuse was prevalent in my home and trying to navigate school with honors and AP Courses throughout this experience was next to impossible. Eventually, the abuse became so bad that I had no choice but to flee.”
“Wherever I stayed and whoever I stayed with, regardless of their intent, if they learned about my sexuality, it still put me in the vulnerable position of unstable and inconsistent housing; and when I was already vulnerable, I felt like I needed to obscure that side of me as a means of exercising control in my life over what little I had authority: the story that I presented to others.” In this powerful blog, SHC Young Leader Brandon Plowman discusses the complexity of homelessness among LGBTQ youth.
Written by Vikki C. Terrile, Librarian and Assistant Professor, Queensborough Community College, CUNY, Bayside, NY. “Libraries are often a lifeline for families in homeless situations. Prior to the pandemic, they were the place where kids and parents could come to use computers, access services, attend programs, and of course, read and borrow books and other materials. For families staying in shelters or other settings that required them to leave during the day, libraries were likely the only safe indoor space they could visit that didn’t cost money while also offering a wide range of services and amenities.”
The National Center for Homeless Education (the U.S. Department of Education’s technical assistance center) recently released a three-year summary of school data on children and youth experiencing homelessness, including the 2018-2019 school year (the most recent school year for which it has compiled data). The data paint a picture of homelessness in our nation’s public schools in the year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing important baseline data and findings that should inform our actions now, as schools move toward reopening and recovery. This new SchoolHouse Connection article describes six of the most salient findings, and their relevance to the pandemic response and recovery.
By SchoolHouse Connection’s Scholar Jahnee S.. “I was 8 years old when I first experienced homelessness. Homelessness then became a struggle that my family and I couldn’t escape. I experienced standing in the snow, hoping my family and I had a place to sleep on a church floor; how packed and unsanitary emergency shelters are, as I got lice within two days of staying there; how “The Florida Project” brought me flashbacks to the many months my family lived in motels, and how I viewed peers with “the basic necessities” with such envy.”
Throughout the month of February, we hosted a series of conversations titled “Engaging and Re-engaging Students Experiencing Homelessness During the Pandemic,” to allow homeless liaisons a space to share their challenges and best practices to support students experiencing homelessness during the pandemic. Here are those conversations.
Written by Audrey Ann Crocker, University of South Carolina Social Worker Graduate Intern and Colin Bauer, District Social Worker & McKinney-Vento Liaison, Spartanburg School District 7, South Carolina. “It was mid-summer when one of our volunteers, Melissa, contacted Colin Bauer, a social worker with School District 7, in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It was also mid-pandemic and the needs of our families in District 7 were at an all-time high. Melissa felt drawn to respond to the needs of these families after witnessing several experiences of poverty in the area, which highlighted how many of our families did not have the shelter and the food they needed.”
In-person, Online, or a Combination: Meeting the Needs of McKinney-Vento Students in a Rural School District
Written by Colleen Flanagan, Homeless Liaison, Executive Assistant for Student Support Services, Orting School District, Washington. In Orting, it was clear back in September that a few of our student groups really needed to come back to in-person learning as soon as possible. We began the work to provide priority for in person learning, focusing on two groups. One was our students with IEPs, specifically those with the most significant disabilities and whose families were struggling at home with online schooling. The other group was our McKinney-Vento students.
Statewide End-of-Year Assessments and Students Experiencing Homelessness: Thoughtful Action Needed to Ensure Participation and Prevent Setbacks
SchoolHouse Connection recognizes the value of statewide assessments as a tool for parents, communities, schools, and systems of education to gain insights into how well students are being served, including factors that might impact achievement. We recently joined over 40 education and civil rights organizations in signing onto a statement regarding the administration of statewide assessments, and are pleased to see that ED will not consider blanket waivers of the critical civil rights component of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that requires high quality, statewide assessments. While we acknowledge that assessment data for this school year will have an asterisk next to it in the history books, this information is still critical to help us understand what our systems of education need in order to serve all students well.
This blog is written by Ann Willemssen, Director, UPD Consulting. UPD Consulting, in collaboration with the Baltimore Department of Housing and Community Development and Baltimore City Schools, recently designed a model program which connects affordable housing opportunities to elementary school families. The work started as an idea by a Baltimore elementary school principal who noticed, while placing his McKinney Vento-identified students into taxi cabs to stay in shelters and on couches across town, that there were vacant homes right across the street that could be put to better use.
“Given the alarming number of young children experiencing homelessness outside the K-12 school system in Washington State, we wanted to learn more about how early learning programs can better support these children and their families. We decided to look into identifying and improving state policies and encouraging collaboration between housing and early learning providers.” In this two-part blog, Megan Veith and Katara Jordan, Senior Managers at Building Changes, share activities and learnings through the State Partnerships grant of the Education Leads Home campaign (Part One), and updates and the impacts of COVID-19 on children and families experiencing homelessness in Washington state (Part Two).
SchoolHouse Connection Calls on Congress to Prioritize Urgent Support for Children, Youth, and Families Experiencing Homelessness in Federal COVID-19 Relief Stimulus
SchoolHouse Connection Calls on Congress to Prioritize Urgent Support for Children, Youth, and Families Experiencing Homelessness in Federal COVID-19 Relief Stimulus. To date, Congress has not targeted COVID-19 relief funding to the needs of children, youth, and families who are homeless, despite great vulnerability.
“I’ve always known I wanted to be an attorney. My mom used to say I decided that at age seven and stuck with it. And it’s true, through being homeless in high school, and working three jobs in undergrad, to half starving my way through law school, I had one goal: become a lawyer. Then I failed that damn bar exam and it broke me. I didn’t mean to let it, but it did. After overcoming so many hardships, this damn test took me down. And the shame… the shame of knowing that I had what it takes to pass, but hadn’t… The shame of watching all of my friends pass. And the loss… the loss of all that I’d thought I’d be.” In this blog, Bréyon Austin shares how she turned the pain of 2020 into triumph.
“There’s Much More to Be Done:” Lessons Learned From the First Maryland Higher Education and Youth Homelessness Convening
In mid-December, the Coalition to End Youth Homelessness in Maryland and the University of Maryland – College Park’s Fostering Terp Success Program hosted a virtual convening for Maryland higher education institutions and community organizers to discuss new research and best practices for students experiencing homelessness. Here are the key takeaways.
SchoolHouse Connection strongly condemns yesterday’s violent insurrection and the white supremacy that underlies it. We are deeply concerned about the health of our democracy and the added layers of trauma for children and youth witnessing these events – especially children and youth of color, who are disproportionately suffering from the toll of the pandemic and economic crisis – many of whom are also missing the safety and stability of their schools during distance learning. The fate of our most marginalized children and youth is the fate of this nation.
“I am the second youngest of 7 children and growing up, my siblings and I relied heavily on each other to navigate the challenges we faced. Though we ended up being split apart at a young age, we managed to survive, and to this day I would not be who I am if it wasn’t for them. This is my story.” By Danny, SchoolHouse Connection Scholar
“You could tell early on in my childhood that my mother had never truly wanted to be anything other than young and carefree, while many parenting responsibilities fell onto me with full accountability. This meant that, while some kids got cared for by loving parents, I was raised early on to be self-reliant, and when the time came, I was taught to be a caretaker for my sister too.” By Aseret, SchoolHouse Connection Scholar
“As we went back to school this fall, we faced many challenges. Some of the biggest ones were, and continue to be, 1) Where are our students? 2) What kind of learning will best accommodate each student? 3) How will we provide transportation once we start to open school buildings? We haven’t physically seen our students since March, so first, we are working to find our students and make sure they are fully incorporated in our program and our schools.” By Melissa Douglas, Homeless Liaison, Kansas City Public Schools, Missouri.
“As the founder and Executive Director of The Scholarship Academy, a nonprofit organization that connects low-income families to a four-year college funding pipeline, I’ve spent the last decade empowering students to take ownership of the financial aid process. The last six months alone have unveiled a financial aid triple threat that cannot be ignored.” By Jessica Johnson, Executive Director, The Scholarship Academy, Atlanta, GA.
This blog is written by Marsha Basloe, President of Child Care Services Association. “One strategy I would recommend to others working in early childhood is to connect regularly with peers. In North Carolina, we have a call every two weeks with early childhood partners across the state: child care administrators, child care health consultants, Head Start directors, our Smart Start agencies here in North Carolina, and others. We share our challenges and brainstorm potential solutions.”
Cynthia A. Núñez, a Social Worker at Lewiston Independent School District in Idaho wanted to do more for families who were facing food insecurity during the pandemic. Their district created “Grab N Go” meals for families during the week but that didn’t seem enough. Read on to find out what Cynthia did to lift not only lift the families’ spirits but also her own.
On July 16, 2020, we connected with four mothers from New Jersey, Louisiana, Ohio, and Louisiana to share their unique parental perspectives. Through this discussion, we learned about some of the challenges facing parents and their children who are navigating homelessness during the COVID-19 era; the assistance they have found thus far, and the support they still need, but have not yet received.
On July 14, 2020, we connected virtually with five youth: four SchoolHouse Connection Young Leaders and a Youth Advisor for National Network for Youth. We listened as they reflected on their childhood experiences of homelessness and shared their experiences and challenges navigating college and homelessness in the wake of COVID-19. Here is the summary of the briefing.
Across the nation, school district homeless liaisons and early childhood programs are facing enormous and unprecedented challenges serving children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness during the pandemic. Yet liaisons also are coming up with creative strategies, drawing on community support, and forging ahead to meet constantly changing needs. In this video series, we sit down with liaisons and other providers from across the nation to share their experiences and tips as they face the new school year.
In this guest perspective, Charlotte Kinzley, McKinney-Vento liaison for Minneapolis Public Schools, describes the promising outcomes of Stable Homes Stable Schools, an initiative that supports eighteen schools with the highest rates of homelessness and provides access to ongoing rental assistance or one-time emergency assistance and wrap around services. “One critical and unique aspect of this housing initiative is that it focuses on the children in the family to prioritize those most in need and to measure success. Very rarely do we see this focus in the prioritization within our homeless response systems. The lack of focus on children’s needs is short-sighted when we know that homelessness is often generational, and therefore, we will not end homelessness without paying close attention to the needs of children in our community.”
We are sickened, saddened, and angered by the virulent racism in our nation. While this racism has been unveiled in horrific ways in recent days, we know it underlies profound historic and current inequities in education, early care, homelessness, and all aspects of...
On April 30th, SchoolHouse Connection hosted a webinar featuring three young leaders from our Youth Leadership and Scholarship Program who are navigating higher education during the coronavirus pandemic. During the webinar, the students shared their experiences, challenges, and advice for other students, higher education professionals, and service providers. This blog post has been repurposed from the webinar.
Five Questions with Dr. Patricia Popp: Training is Critical to Support Students Experiencing Homelessness
“I was a teacher for students with disabilities when I entered the William & Mary doctoral program almost 25 years ago. I still see myself primarily as an educator. I truly believe that nothing we do in education makes a difference unless it affects a student. Since teachers have the most direct influence on our students, it is imperative that they be part of our work in homeless education.”
Implementing State Law to Support College Students Experiencing Homelessness: Lessons from the First Tennessee Convening
In early March, prior to widespread school closures related to the coronavirus outbreak, SchoolHouse Connection (SHC) hosted a statewide convening on higher education and homelessness in Tennessee. We hosted three in-person convenings in Murfreesboro, Knoxville, and Memphis and live-streamed the convening. Together, we had over 100 people in attendance. The purpose of the convening was to help institutions implement HB 1000 / SB 763, a new state law that requires each post-secondary institution in Tennessee to designate a Homeless Student Liaison to assist students experiencing homelessness in applying for and receiving financial aid and available services.
Written by Jordyn Roark, Director of Youth Leadership and Scholarships at SchoolHouse Connection. “As a college student, I experienced a devastating hurricane, where most of the town I lived in was flooded. I remember this experience as being scary, filled with loss, and ultimately extremely traumatic — especially on top of the trauma of my own homelessness. As I navigate my current professional role supporting students who are homeless during the Coronavirus outbreak, I have been reflecting on my experiences as a student.” In this guest perspective, Jordyn shares strategies she has used to support our scholars and young leaders in the hopes that it will help others, as well as begin to build a foundation for best practices in the midst of a global pandemic.
Briya Public Charter School Goes the Extra Mile to Ensure All Students are Counted in the 2020 Census
By Johanna Ulseth, Student Services Coordinator and Homeless Liaison at Briya Public Charter School, Washington DC. As the 2020 United States Census is approaching, Briya and Mary’s Center have been working together to ensure that all of our students are informed of the process and empowered to participate. This blog details how Briya Public Charter Schools in Washington, DC are ensuring everyone gets counted in 2020.
Jo Zimmer, MPAE, owner of Beyond-the-Box Strategies, LLC, brings more than 20 years’ experience in safety net programs, most recently to the 28-county Rural Oregon Continuum of Care (ROCC), in her contracted role as Consultant/Coordinator for the Oregon team’s State Partnerships on Student Homelessness Project. By helping agencies and entities cooperatively address issues of housing, homelessness, and poverty in rural Oregon, she hopes to assist communities in doing “better” with less and reframe traditional thinking about funding and service delivery. In this blog, Jo tells us about host homes in Oregon and how they help promote high school graduation for students experiencing homelessness.
Destiny explains, “Having had to silently deal with so many mental health issues and watching others struggle in their own ways, I have developed a passion to want to help those struggling to find inner peace.” Here, Destiny explains how education has been a powerful force in her life–and how she’s compelled to help other students experiencing homelessness be their own best advocates.
On December 20, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released data ahead of its 2019 Annual Homeless Assessment Report Part I (AHAR), boasting decreases in family and youth homelessness. This assertion was challenged by providers who work directly with families and youth, including early childhood programs and educators, who see a very different reality.
This short article explains why HUD’s data are flawed and misleading, and why other federal data sources provide a more accurate picture of child, youth, and family homelessness.
Tina Marie is a SchoolHouse Connection Young Leader and the current Director of the A Bed for Every Child program at the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, which seeks to provide beds for children who are living in poverty without a bed of their own. Before leading this program, she was the Coalition’s Community Organizer and Legislative Advocate, helping to manage successful public policy campaigns that directly addressed the need to prevent and end homelessness by strengthening state-funded resources for Massachusetts’ most vulnerable residents. During this time, Tina Marie often shared her own experiences as a homeless youth at the state and federal level to help identify the needs of youth who are at-risk of or are currently experiencing homelessness.
We interview Anne Giordano, MA, DSP, IMH-E®, who is an Early Childhood Specialist at EdAdvance in Litchfield, CT. She has coordinated a McKinney-Vento subgrant for the school district, provides training for the CT Association in Infant Mental Health, and frequently develops and provides training at the state and national levels on the impact of homelessness on expectant parents, young children and their families.
Authored by: Heather Denny, State Coordinator for Homeless Education, Montana Office of Public Instruction. “I’ve been to countless conferences. I’ve sat through hours of professional development. I’ve probably spent days conferring with liaisons, service providers, school administrators, national policy experts, advocates, and my peers who do this work. But when a youth experiencing homelessness came to stay with me and my family, I learned more in one week than I’ve learned in a very long time.”
In this guest perspective, Jani Koester, Resource Teacher with Madison Metropolitan School District’s Transition Education Program, reminds us that “Back to School” happens all year long for students experiencing homelessness, and that being prepared for a new student, and taking time for transitions, are essential practices for success.
In this guest perspective, Kathy Mustacato Wigtil, Ed.D., Baylor University, offers insights from her students and her research on how educators can better support students experiencing homelessness.
Putting all the Pieces Together: Creating Opportunities for Success for Students Experiencing Homelessness at USF
The University of South Florida (USF) is enhancing its services to students who are currently or have been homeless. Identification and outreach, tailored wellness coaching, a website specific to this population, year-round housing opportunities, and the redesign of a process by which homeless students can receive a tuition waiver are all components of our approach to fostering the success of these high-priority USF students.
This piece by Homeless Education Program Coordinator Catherine Knowles, captures some of the most pressing challenges, inspiring triumphs, and innovative strategies experienced and implemented by practitioners supporting students experiencing homelessness around the country.
Amy Kendall, Program Director of the Maryville Crisis Nursery, and Chris Perille, Maryville Crisis Nursery Advisory Council member, describe how crisis nurseries provide essential support to families with urgent needs, including families experiencing homelessness.
Identifying Students Experiencing Homelessness: How Small Changes in Email Communications Can Achieve Big Results, Part I
Daniel Shephard is the President of the Implementation Science and Communication Strategies Group and a former member of the Office of Evaluation Sciences and the Obama administration’s White House Social and Behavioral Sciences Team. He writes here about his perspective on the behaviorally-informed email communications project developed by the Office of Evaluation Sciences.
This piece by Homeless Education Liaison Sue Lenahan is the first in a series of blog posts that, in five questions, captures some of the most pressing challenges, inspiring triumphs, and innovative strategies experienced and implemented by practitioners supporting students experiencing homelessness around the country.
There is always a sense of pride and accomplishment in the days leading up to a graduation ceremony. Some students will continue their studies in graduate or professional schools; some may have job offers already lined up; and some may still be figuring out their next steps. In this guest perspective, authors from Western Carolina University share strategies for helping vulnerable youth make a successful transition after college.
By Miguel Arellano Sanchez, Basic Needs Navigator at The Human Services Resource Center (HSRC) at Oregon State University (OSU). Navigating college as a first-generation college student can feel like making your way through a maze with no map, filled with “learn as you go” lessons, and “wow, I wish I knew this then.” When you combine it with being low-income, homeless, and/or food insecure, it can feel like you’re navigating the same maze blindfolded, on a tightrope, balancing multiple responsibilities. It should not be like this.
I recall vividly the day that Mary Jean called me, over twenty years ago, to ask if the National Coalition for the Homeless would set up a scholarship fund in memory of her husband. At the time, I was very intimidated by Mary Jean – she was a giant in our world of homeless education. She made homeless children and youth a priority at the federal level, long before legislation mandated it.
“When I learned about SchoolHouse Connection’s Tennessee legislation to help college students experiencing homelessness, I immediately was compelled to reach out to my legislators asking for their support. I know the tangible, long-term value of education in overcoming homelessness. I know it because I have lived it. Here is my letter to my legislators urging them to support legislation to help college students experiencing homelessness.”
By Ross E. O’Hara, Ph.D., Behavioral Researcher at Persistence Plus. “Imagine going to college yet living on the brink of financial disaster. That’s the situation in which Terry* found himself during his first semester at a community college in northeastern Ohio. Initially excited about starting college and earning his associate’s degree, he quickly became pessimistic, texting to us by the seventh week of the semester, ‘I used to be bad at failing now I’m even better at it!’
Real Families, Real Solutions: How Homeless Service Providers Can Meet the Needs of Young Children and Their Families
By Carol Klocek, CEO, Center for Transforming Lives, Ft. Worth, TX. “There is no cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all solution to family homelessness…Real solutions are as complex as the families who experience homelessness. But if we truly want to end family homelessness in our communities, we must take the time to find and create real solutions for real families.”
By Jill Getman, Homeless Tutor, Independence School District, Missouri. “Education is the key to ending homelessness, and if I can help one student in their journey, I’ve done my job. Each week when I walk in, I know I will see new faces; but more often than not, I see a face I have seen the previous week, along with a hug and an “I’m so glad you are back!””
In this guest perspective from Tori Vohland, Children in Transition High School Liaison and Jennifer Harris, Program Evaluator at the Washoe County School District, they hope to inspire others working in PreK-12 educational settings to examine rates of chronic absenteeism among the students they serve and think about how they might use absenteeism data to help identify students who are experiencing homelessness.
In Chicago, Depaul USA has focused its work on serving the estimated 50 DePaul University students who experience homelessness each academic quarter. Depaul USA created the Dax Program in 2015, providing housing, case management, counseling referrals, transportation, food and book stipends, and educational reimbursements to homeless students.
By Barbara Anita Baldwin, Senior Coordinator of Site Management, Early Learning Division, ABCD Inc., Bridgeport, CT. “One day, he looked out the window watching the construction outside. I asked him what he was thinking. He stated that he was tired of the doors always changing color. I asked him, “What color were the doors?” He told me red, brown, and blue. He stated he just wanted to get back to his door. The red door.”
Many college students experiencing homelessness are also hungry and food insecure. In response, some colleges and universities create food banks and food pantries. In honor of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, we highlight Holyoke Community College’s unique strategy to raise awareness, partner with faculty, and create delicious recipes by creating a “Chopped Challenge.” Read here.
By Jillian Sitjar, Program Manager of Higher Education at SchoolHouse Connection. “Attending #RealCollege 2018 was a “crash course” in the best sort of way. This conference was unlike any I have ever attended. Here are my top three reflections of the #RealCollege Covening.”
By Mary Ellen Mitchell, Co-Director, Lydia’s House, Cincinnati, OH. “On the early afternoon of August 21, 2018, we received a call to our intake line. St. Vincent de Paul asked us to provide housing for a young woman, Mia, and her three-year-old daughter, Kiley. We were told that Mia had been living in her car with Kiley for over a month.”
By Debra Albo-Steiger, District Homeless Liaison for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. “The trauma faced by the children, youth, and adults who experience hurricanes or any natural disaster can be felt for years. A year after these storms, we still see the hardship faced by so many with roofs that have not been repaired and homes that were not able to be saved.”
By Ed Vere. Ed graduated with Highest Honors from a Blue Ribbon High School District in Illinois. He is a third-year Urban Studies student at Wheaton College. “This past June, my SchoolHouse Connection peers and I came from all over the U.S. to Washington, D.C. to speak truth — our truths — to power and to each other… Our time together was a revival of some sort … of resiliency, of being nurtured, and of past pain and trauma.”
By DJ QuirinMa, Federal Programs Data Analyst, Montana Office of Public Instruction, Christy Hendricks, Data control specialist for CTE, Montana Office of Public Instruction, and Heather Denny, State Coordinator for Homeless Education, Montana Office of Public Instruction. “Here in Montana, we began to look at the programs that all high schools, both urban and rural, already had in place. We found that for students experiencing homelessness, the completion of three or more Career and Technical Education courses lowered the likelihood of dropping out by half. There were no dropouts among the students who participated in a Career and Technical Student Organization.”
By Brandy S. Gros M.A., Founder/CEO, Dorm Room Dreamz L3C. “I never thought about that!” “There’s such a thing as homeless college students?” These are the common reactions I get when I explain what Dorm Room Dreamz L3C (DRDz) is all about.
By Destiny Dickerson, an SHC scholar who is majoring in Psychology at San Diego State University. “I did not sleep in a tent, or on a park bench, but I was still homeless. There are many students and people who are living just like me and deserve to be validated in their homeless status. We have already lost so much. We deserve to be recognized.”
By Megan “Mutt” Martin. Megan, age 20, graduated from the Anchorage School District, AK. She is majoring in Nursing at The University of Alaska, Anchorage. “I realized that I was an advocate. I wasn’t just a youth spinning a sob story to get someone’s attention. I was a young adult talking about the realities that homeless youth face. I faced these realities in my childhood, and I know that many others still face them, and will continue to face them in childhoods yet to come.”
By Jani Koester, President of the Dane County WI Homeless Services Consortium Board of Directors, Resource Teacher with Madison Metropolitan School District’s Transition Education Program. “Mom went to coordinated intake to check on the status of their name on the priority list and found out that they had been removed from the list because they are no longer staying at the shelter or in their car. It was a long night for the family because they had been in the top 20 and thought that by now they would be connecting with housing. No one told them their name had come off the list. No one helped them look for other resources.”
By Kylee Fuhr, District Homeless Liaison, St. Lucie Public Schools, Florida. “I was astonished to learn that we had 106 McKinney-Vento seniors registered, but we had never arranged a tour of our local institute of higher education, Indian River State College. I knew I had to figure out a way to get these students interested in college and aware of the benefits of pursuing their undergraduate education…”
By Leslie Camden Goold, MSW, School Social Worker/McKinney-Vento Homeless Liaison, Central Valley School District, Washington. This June, I am stepping outside my comfort zone to honor the unknown challenges that these students face every summer and raise awareness about homelessness. I am going to hike a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail to acknowledge the daily struggles these students are facing without the safety net of school. I will publicize my journey in the local media, and invite those moved to help to contribute to my McKinney-Vento program.
By Beth McCullough, Homeless Education Liaison, Adrian Public Schools, MI. He had been in 5 different high schools in 2 years. He missed his whole freshman year because of homeschooling that resulted in no credit. His chance of graduating on time? “About 2%,” someone said in a meeting.
By Susan Piazza, Assistant Director, Title I and School Support Team, WI Department of Public Instruction. “I recently had the honor of introducing a session at the National Title I Conference, hosted by the National Title I Association in Philadelphia, PA. The session was titled, ‘Voices of Youth: Education, Homelessness, Hope.’ As I sat there listening, I was once again reminded of the truth behind the impact that school, district, and state level systems can have on the future of a child or youth experiencing homelessness.”
By Cynthia A. Núñez MSW, McKinney-Vento Liaison, Lewiston, ID. “One night last fall, I lay awake, replaying a conversation I had had with a fellow social worker regarding homelessness in our community. I recalled his words about “the overall lack of concern for a population that many choose to ignore” and I contemplated what could I do to make a difference.”
By Jessie McCormick. Jessie works at Sasha Bruce Youthwork and is passionate about making resources such as education and health care available to homeless youth and young adults.
I sat down with a young man I have worked with since he was in middle school. He is now 17 years old. He was homeless with his mother, and he is now homeless as an unaccompanied youth. “Well Jay, it’s that time of the year. What would you like for Christmas?” I asked.
To Create Change, We Must Change: Exploring the Disconnect Between Homelessness and Educational Success
By Deidra Thomas-Murray, Homeless Liaison, Saint Louis Public Schools. Teachers arrive at work prepared to teach students who may seem to be prepared to learn. But how prepared can students be when they are living under stressful housing conditions? I ask, “How likely are teachers to understand,” because there was a time in my career that I did not “get it.”
In this SchoolHouse Connection Guest Perspective, Barb Dexter, McKinney-Vento liaison for the Anchorage School District, shares powerful examples of the policies and practices that her school district uses to implement the McKinney-Vento Act, re-engage students who have left school, and help them obtain a key to their future: a high school degree.
“I want to stress the importance of the Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act (HEASHFY). I, myself was an unaccompanied homeless youth throughout high school and college and I know first-hand how homelessness can affect access to higher education. I have created a list of reasons why HEASHFY is important to me and why it will be instrumental in the lives of students experiencing homelessness.”
By Marta Martinez, McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Liaison, Northside ISD, Texas. “As the enrollment of students identified as being impacted by Hurricane Harvey increased, so did my concerns about how their needs would be met as they enrolled at campuses throughout our large district.”
By Jonathan Houston, Equal Opportunity Schools, former Tukwila School District, WA liaison. “‘This was not supposed to happen to me.’ That was the first thought that went through my mind during my first year as a McKinney-Vento liaison. I finally had a decent job and had begun to progress toward my professional career in providing equity. I was the guy who was supposed to help everybody else…but homelessness was not supposed to happen to me.”
By Jordyn Roark, BSW candidate, University of North Carolina at Pembroke. “You walk into an office and are asked for your name and address. You reply that you don’t have an address. The secretary looks confused and says, ‘You must have an address. Where do you sleep?’ You cringe and restate that you do not have an address. The secretary fumbles through some papers, lets out a strained breath, and finally looks up to state: ‘We need an address in order to move forward.’”
By Dakota Chronis, Student, North Seattle Community College. Early in life I struggled significantly with schooling because there were many basic needs that I never had met. I lived in unsafe environments due to financial instability. The constant threat of being harmed or becoming sick was scary because I didn’t have access to medical care. My untreated chronic health issues prevented me from focusing on schooling.
“The issue of homelessness is often an invisible burden outshined by images of tattered clothes and messages written on cardboard. The true face of homelessness is so much broader than that. We will truly elicit change when we are able to help our community and those in power see those faces.” We present a very special guest perspective. Two SHC Young Leaders – student and peer mentor – share their thoughts and feelings about speaking truth to power in Washington, DC.
For years before I lost my housing, I was trapped with a parent in a home that was unsafe and unsuitable for living. I spent three years parenting my own child as a minor, aware that if I were to reach out for housing supports or express fear for my safety, I could be forcibly separated from my daughter and we could both end up worse off.
By Lisa Berglund, Masters in Public Policy, University of Maryland. When I met Trevon* at the therapeutic nursery at his family’s shelter in Baltimore, his teacher gave me a warning. “Be careful about getting close to him,” she said. “He gets scared around strangers.” This little boy, not yet two years old, had already been through significant trauma in his short life, which made him wary of his surroundings.
By Nakita Scott, School Social Worker, Polk County, Florida. During the first few months of working with the HEARTH Project, I wasn’t aware of the vast needs of unaccompanied homeless youth. Then I encountered a young lady who asked me a simple question: “What is the difference between a debit card and a credit card, and how do I balance my checkbook?” It was then that I realized these youth were on their own, without basic skills to take care of themselves.
By Lizzy Shoben, AA, Social Welfare, Central College of Florida. I didn’t know what to expect the first time I stepped foot in a college financial aid office, I assumed it would be the easiest part of college. Ha, joke was on me. Who knew I would be bawling in front of a stranger, telling them about one of my most humiliating and heartbreaking experiences of my life?
By Anne Giordano, Early Childhood Consultant, Litchfield, CT. What is it like to be tiny, and homeless? What might it be like to be pregnant and homeless? And what are the short and long term consequences?
Back when I was in high school, my brother and I went to see our high school counselor to express our desire to attend college. Right away she expressed her concerns that college might not be the best choice for us. She recommended we set our sights a little lower.
By Roxana Parise, Homeless Liaison, Bellingham Public Schools, WA. I was 11 years old the first time I witnessed an immigration raid. My family was living in central California and we were working in the fields picking blackberries. For a long time, I had nightmares that I was going to be taken away from my family, never to see them again…Today, as a homeless liaison, I work with many families who have at least one undocumented member in their family.
By Anthony Kibble, McKinney-Vento State Coordinator, Oklahoma. During my career, I have had the opportunity to focus my efforts on strengthening the Oklahoma child serving system from both a direct practice and administrative level. This experience has supported me greatly in the administrative work that is often focused on compliance, grant administration, policy, statutes, and laws.
By Ellen McLaughlin, Homeless Liaison, Sarasota, FL. To say that Alex, age 17, was overwhelmed when she gave birth this past spring would have been an understatement. She had dropped out of high school and was on her own and homeless. Having access to prioritized child care changed everything for them, because it meant that both Alex and her son could move forward together.
By Beth McCullough, Homeless Education Liaison, Adrian Public Schools, MI. The police were called. There was violence. Parents went to jail. It was one of the worst days of her life. When all was said and done, she landed with a friend and needs to pay rent. “I have to quit school and get a job,” she said.
By Irene Sauceda, BSW, MSW Candidate, Texas State University. I walked into the counselor’s office, a place I sought out to check the status of my GPA, but this time I was called in. Curiosity raving in my heart, I walked to the back office of the counselor for the senior class. “What could a senior counselor want with me if I’m only a junior?,” I asked myself.
By Beth McCullough, homeless liaison, Adrian Public Schools. I have a fish tank in my office. Right now it has only two fish. It could use one more. When students come into my office they want to feed them and I let them. Preschool students to high school students like to gaze at them.
By Beth McCullough, McKinney-Vento Homeless Liaison, Adrian Public Schools, MI. They had lived in five different places within six months. Their path included staying with friends, two shelters and a motel. When all of their resources were spent, I put them in a motel for a week with no idea of where they were going to go after that.
Beth McCullough is the McKinney-Vento homeless liaison for Adrian Public Schools in Adrian, MI. We are honored that Beth has agreed to share her essays as part of our Guest Perspectives blog.