Our Future Needs Help

Homeless child at soup kitchen, Her family was living out of a car.
Homeless child at soup kitchen, Her family was living out of a car. Taken June 2008

I was reading an article entitled  “The 10 Worst States for Student Homelessness“.  It is a very well written and enlightening piece that encourage you to take the time to read.  In it, it offers a link to the Dept of Ed’s report citing the actual statistics per state for the 2009-2010, 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years.  Numbers are not complete for the current school year since it has not completed.

California tops out at 21.3% of their students are homeless!  New York comes in 2nd at 8.3% and Texas at 8.1%. This is positively horrifying!  These numbers are a representation of the total students statewide.  The majority of the homeless are in urban areas.  So what are the percentages in those inner city classrooms?

How can we expect children to succeed with so much working against them?  How can teachers teach effectively when children are worried about where their next meal is coming from, do they have a safe place to go after school and where they will sleep tonight?

It’s hard enough to maintain employment when you are homeless,  I know first hand.  If you haven’t read my post “Insights Into the Dark” please check it out.

Personally I’d really love to see the statistics of absenteeism rates for homeless vs housed students.  I know how hard it was for kids in the shelter that I stayed at to attend school, but at least they had somewhere to be picked up and dropped off from.  Unfortunately it was in the middle of the bus route so everyone knew exactly where they lived.

Imagine the family that is rotating between friends and relatives, a night or two in each place; or the family who is staying in their car or worse yet outdoors.

Here’s a video from an episode of Ellen that is from September 2011.  It’s about an amazing lady named Sherrie Gahn who is the principal of an elementary school in Las Vegas.  Well instead of me telling you, watch it and we’ll talk more…

Gave you chills right?  I know it did for me and a lot of other people.  It’s pretty overwhelming.  Sherrie Gahn is working miracles and thankfully she got some huge help.  In fact, after this show aired, Justin Bieber personally donated $100,000 to the school.  That being said, that’s just one elementary school.

You heard her numbers… 85% on free or reduced lunch, a large portion of them are homeless, even though the statistics for the state of Nevada list the reported homeless students at 0.9 %.   Less than one percent, yet that much poverty.

So what is it like for kids and teachers in LA, living in a state that reports it has approximately 53,000 members of their students are homeless?  Or New York with over eight thousand students that are homeless?  And that’s just homeless.  That doesn’t consider those living in poverty that have managed to retain a roof over their heads.

As a parent, I know how much I was required to provide for my child when she was in school.  I don’t think there’s a school around that doesn’t rely on at least 2 or more fundraisers to help them make ends meet each year.  None of those fundraisers are even designed to cover the out of pocket costs being covered by teachers.  For the schools dealing with this much poverty, where does the fundraising come from?  Certainly not parents.  So the schools do without, putting an added financial burden on already stretched parents.  How many children would you guess have all the tools they need to succeed?  I’m going to guess not enough.

According to the Food Research and Action Center, approximately 19.6 million children received free or reduced lunches in the 2011-2012 school year.  During that same school year there were a total of 952,281 homeless students (reported).  So the homeless only (roughly) represent half of the children living at or below poverty incomes.  As you can see, there many, many children that need help.

While it’s easy to throw up our hands, note that it’s an overwhelming problem or just simply say not my kid/not my problem, the fact is… it is your problem, and mine, and everyone else’s.  You see these kids are going to be adults that need to become teachers, lawyers, doctors, and everything else we need to make our society function.   They will be taking care of you and me as time marches on.  As the song says, our children are our future.  We need to take care of them now so they can take care of us later.

Please consider participating in a local supply drive or even creating one.  Talk to your local schools, churches, community centers or even your employer to find out who they help and when so that you may participate.  My employer does school supply drives twice a year in addition to food drives, clothing drives, etc.

You can also contact one of the following organizations to help as well.  If you are in need please contact the same resources for assistance.

The Kids in Need Foundation
This foundation distributes supplies to 2.4 million students annually. While they do not donate directly, through a national network of Resource Centers, teachers can get free supplies for their students in need.  The foundation also distributed items through community backpack and supplies giveaway programs throughout the country.  For communities without its Resource Centers, community organizations often provide supplies to local students by conducting backpack giveaways through the foundation.  Go to http://www.kinf.org/ for more information on applying to receive support for a school, or to donate.
 Boys & Girls Club of America
Boys & Girls Clubs of America host a national supply drive, called Tools for Back-to-School, through an online play-to-give game and in-store support at retailers across the nation. These supplies, as well as supplies donated by their partners, Disney, Michaels, and Staples, are delivered directly to local Boys & Girls Clubs. Families can contact their local Boys & Girls Club for more information on back-to-school support. To find your local club visit http://www.greatfutures.org and click Find A Club.
 AdoptAClassroom.org
AdoptAClassroom.org is a national, nonprofit organization whose goal is to make sure that all children have access to a quality education. They start by supporting classroom teachers, and since 1998 have raised over $18 million for classrooms across the country. Through this program, teachers are able to make purchases to enrich their classrooms, and students benefit. To support a classroom, visithttp://www.adoptaclassroom.org.
 The Give with Target Program
The retail chain will donate $5 million to schools across the country to help ensure that students and teachers have the supplies they need to start the new year. From now through September 21, guests can cast their vote for a school of their choice by visiting Target’s Facebook page. Once a school has received 25 votes, Target will donate $1 per vote, with a (maximum donation of $10,000 per school). The cash donation will provide schools with undesignated funds to purchase the materials their students and teachers need most. For more info, visit http://givewith.target.com/.

As always friends, thanks for listening and letting me share.

{{{hugs}}}
Maggie

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