Pictures on the news of tent cities often lead people to conclude that homelessness is an exclusive problem to America’s largest cities, but the truth is, rural areas are not immune to the challenges of homelessness. It is a concern in every county and every part of our nation.
Every school my office serves has to confront the reality of homeless kids on a daily basis. This is not an issue anyone wants to talk about, but it is one we must confront, especially during National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. In the United States, about 37.2 million Americans live below the poverty level and 580,000 Americans are homeless on a typical night. Approximately one in six children in the U.S. live in poverty and here locally, every county the Regional Office of Education 21 serves — Massac, Johnson, Franklin and Williamson counties — has double digit poverty levels.
Our office works with local schools to confront youth homelessness in a variety of ways. One way we are tackling homelessness among children is through the McKinney-Vento Act, which is designed to provide every eligible child and youth equal access to schools. Through this federal program, we are able to identify homeless children and youth and remove enrollment barriers such as fines or fees; records required for enrollment including immunization or other required health records; proof of residency; other documentation; and/or academic records, including documentation for credit transfer, which is a significant amount of regression.
A major point of emphasis with the McKinney-Vento Act is the importance of school stability for homeless children and youths because changing schools multiple times significantly impedes a student’s academic and social growth. Studies have shown that students can lose as much as four to six months of academic progress with each transfer to a new school.
The goal is to provide students with some stability in their lives so they can avoid the academic decline that comes with school changes and make progress in their education. The McKinney-Vento Act calls for local educational agencies to keep students in their school of origin in order promote school stability and greater educational outcomes overall, unless it is not in the student’s best interest.
Through the McKinney-Vento program, educators are trained to identify homeless youth and get them enrolled in the services they need. Eligible children and youth should have access to education and other services that they need to enable them to meet the same challenging state student academic achievement standards we demand from all students, which is what the McKinney-Vento program is all about.
The Regional Office of Education is working with local educators to ensure we are doing everything possible to provide homeless youth with programs and services to create an environment for them to succeed.
The community, though, can also play a significant role in addressing the challenges of youth homelessness.
This holiday season, the Regional Office of Education 21 will be volunteering with The Salvation Army collecting donations in the red kettles at storefronts throughout southern Illinois. Please give generously this Christmas season because the money raised goes to confront poverty and youth homelessness throughout the region.
We can reduce youth homelessness if we all do our part.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.