School Districts Should Take the Lead in Eradicating Student Homelessness
No matter where you are from, what race your, or what religion you practice, at the center of it all, you are a human being, and an essential part of the human race. Despite our best efforts we sometimes fall on hard times and end up without a stable place to stay. In societies eyes, we are homeless. Sometimes we just need a little help getting back on our feet. There’s no shame in that.
When parents with kids find their family without a stable place to live, the situation is even more harrowing. Could you imagine being a school-aged kid, who is homeless, and shifts from living in shelters to living with friends and relatives, to living in their families car/van? The experience is stressful, to say the least, yet many of these students succeed despite all of these challenges.
These children need additional support, and teachers must be prepared to intervene. In many instances, their parents may not have the coping skills, intelligence, or connections to get their family back on their feet, so to speak. I mean no disrespect with this statement, I am just trying to paint an accurate portrait of the situation.
Because of their training, and years of experience, teachers are the first to spot the signs of student homelessness. As a result, they often play the part of first responders, springing into action to inform other teachers and school administrators about the issue. But what can they do about the situation?
First, they should attempt to meet with the parents to discuss the situation. The meeting may get awkward, and some parents may even deny their situation, but in the end, the conversation will get to a productive place. Convey that it is not your intention to cause problems, or report them the authorities, you only want to help.
Inform them that there are a lot of community resources available to them. Also, the school district may have connections that the parent would not be able to gain on their own. Once they understand that you are trying to help the family and do what is in the best interest of their children, they should have no problem accepting help.
Second, reach out these connections, and use them to help the family find a stable place to live. If the parent is unemployed or needs a better paying job, use your connections to help them find one. I know you are not a social worker, and that you have a full plate already, so make sure you form a school support group that can collectively work to get these tasks done.
Third, follow up on the families progress, and once they get back on their feet, ask the parents if they would be willing to give back by supporting the school’s efforts to help more homeless families. I assume they will say yes, donating their time, money, and experience to pay it forward.
What did I miss? What would you add?