Written by Denise Miller, Firesteel Advocacy Coordinator
More than 30,000 schoolchildren in Washington state are experiencing homelessness.
In a heart-wrenching story that aired on NPR this morning, one of these students, Erika, talks about the challenges of attending high school while living in a car with her family. Listen here:
Erika’s story was collected as part of the Gates Foundation’s “Finding Our Way” initiative, which has given more than 150 people in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties a chance to share in their own words how homelessness has affected their lives.
As the YWCA of Seattle | King | Snohomish hosted StoryCorps recordings, I met many of the participating families. All the parents I spoke with have gone to great lengths to protect their children from the stresses of homelessness. One mom consistently puts on a brave face and never cries in front of her kids. Another mother ensures that her children are always active in school sports, taking advantage of the McKinney-Vento Act’s guarantee that students experiencing homelessness have access to school activities regardless of their family’s ability to pay.
Despite parents’ best efforts, homelessness can contribute to student health problems, absenteeism and failure to graduate. Next month, as students head back to classrooms, we’ll explore how homelessness affects children, and what educators and service providers can do to help. Please stay tuned for our series written by Perry Firth, the Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness project coordinator whose article about dehumanization of people experiencing homelessness is the most-viewed post on our blog.
In the meantime, check out these links for more on student homelessness:
- Schools Stabilize Families: What Back To School Means for Homeless Children, a Firesteel blog post by Catherine Hinrichsen of the Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness
- Washington State Requirements and Guidance for Homeless Education from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
If you’re moved to make a difference in your community today, please read 15 things you can do about family homelessness from our partners at Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness.