Archive for Sunday, August 22, 2010

More children have no place to call home: Homeless students a widespread concern

Valerie Miller-Coleman is executive director for Family Promise of Lawrence interfaith hospitality network. Miller-Coleman says there are currently five homeless students in the Family Promise program.

Valerie Miller-Coleman is executive director for Family Promise of Lawrence interfaith hospitality network. Miller-Coleman says there are currently five homeless students in the Family Promise program.

August 22, 2010


Fitting in with classmates. Adjusting to a new school. Managing homework and after-school activities.

Startling trend shows elementary school children homeless

Those who work with the children want to give them as stable as an environment as possible. Enlarge video

By the numbers

Homeless students in public schools for 2009-2010 school year:

164 — Lawrence

13 — Eudora

11 — Baldwin City

Less than 10 — Perry-Lecompton

8,495 — Kansas

957,000 — U.S.

As students adjust to the rigors of a new school year, an increasing number of their classmates face an extra challenge: homelessness.

Since the 2007-2008 school year, the number of homeless students in Lawrence Public Schools has nearly doubled — from 97 to an estimated 164 during 2009-2010.

Meanwhile, school districts in Eudora, Baldwin City and Perry-Lecompton all had homeless students last year, after reporting none in 2007-2008.

The numbers are consistent with what agencies such as Family Promise, which offers housing for homeless families, have seen over the past couple of years.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Valerie Miller-Coleman, Family Promise executive director. The agency always has a waiting list to secure one of the four spots it has for homeless families. Currently, the agency has five homeless students in its program.

One of the mothers at Family Promise, who asked not to be identified, talked about the struggles her three children face.

Her children, ages 8 to 14, attend Lawrence public schools.

“Emotionally, it’s really hard,” said the woman, who’s been at Family Promise since May. “At first, my kids had a hard time because they were real quiet. They didn’t know what to do.”

The children balance school with concerns about housing and money for school supplies.

That’s where the schools come in, said Ellen Willets, who coordinates services for homeless students attending Lawrence public schools.

The schools help with transportation and referrals to outside agencies, and counselors assist with some of the emotional distress.

“That’s our job, to minimize the impact on their educational experience,” she said.

The key is trying to maintain some routine for homeless students.

“You want them to be able to stay in one school and have that consistency,” Willets said.

She points out that homelessness affected every school in the Lawrence district last year.

“It crosses all barriers,” Willets said. “It’s all across the city here.”

But an increase in the numbers may be affected by other factors, such as increased awareness, said Linda Troutfetter, social worker for Eudora schools. The district has seen the number of homeless students jump from zero in 2007-2008 to 13 in 2009-2010.

“I don’t know that I would be able say” that homeless students have really increased in the past couple of years, she said. The district has increased its methods of identifying homeless students, such as asking questions about a student’s housing status in enrollment questionnaires. But regardless of whether the numbers reflect actual increases in homelessness, Troutfetter said the district certainly sees more families struggling.

“With the economy,” she said, “we see a greater need.”

Kansas and the U.S.

A large increase in the number of homeless students is also being reported across the state and nationwide.

The numbers of homeless children in public schools in Kansas has jumped from about 3,600 in 2006-2007, to an estimated 8,500 this past school year, according to the Kansas Department of Education. Kansas ranked fourth in the country in percentage increase — 88 percent — of homeless students over the past couple of years, according to a new report by advocacy organization First Focus.

Nationally, the number of homeless students is nearing 1 million, up 41 percent from 2006-2007.

Miller-Coleman with Family Promise said there doesn’t seem to be an end to the rise in the alarming statistics, as every day she sees the struggles of homeless parents fighting for jobs in an extremely tight job market.

For the children at Family Promise, learning to stay positive and keep up with schooling — all without having a permanent place to call home — is a tough lesson she wishes they didn’t have to learn.

“They’re worried about things kids shouldn’t have to worry about,” Miller-Coleman said.


skinny 7 years, 10 months ago

If you can not afford to own a home you should not be having childern!

parrothead8 7 years, 10 months ago

Right...because people's circumstances NEVER change throughout their lives, do they? There's probably never been an instance in this country of someone making good money when they had their kids who then got laid off ten years later, right?

mom_of_three 7 years, 10 months ago

I dont think skinny reads the paper or listens to the news to know that home foreclosures have been at highs for the past several years due to the economy.

avetaysmom 7 years, 10 months ago

Are you serious? What if you become homeless after youhave already had children? This does happen, some things are out of others hands. Must be nice to live in la-la land where everything is perfect! You need a reality check!

Rex Russell 7 years, 10 months ago

Geezuz, that was just stupid. Has the concept escaped you that the parents had stable jobs, then had kids and a home, and THEN lost their jobs? Your empathy for homeless children astounds me. When the shame comes back to you, why don't you suggest removal of your own post.

Clevercowgirl 7 years, 10 months ago

Okay Skinny, I'll take the bait. I'm hoping that your comment is a joke. A minority of people throughout the world own their own home. So, anyone who rents should be banned from raising a family?

Seriously, as a community, we need to support these kids, and provide safety and security wherever possible.. No child asks to be homeless. I'm sure that from a child's point of view, there is a lot of shame associated with this situation. I would hope that we could reach out as a community, and help to support these kids. After all, there are few families that wouldn't be months away from homelessness, if a major loss of income occured.

legalcatmom 7 years, 10 months ago

Many of these children come from working or formerly middle-class families. The reasons they become homeless vary. Some of their parents had decent jobs and were laid off. Some were evicted because of high medical bills being paid instead of rent. Some are children of cancer patients or accident survivors. Some are the victims of domestic violence. Sure, some are the children of irresponsible, deadbeat parents. But like Clevercowgirl says, it is not the child's fault, in any case.

Perhaps, in an "ideal" world, children should only be born to highly educated, high-earning, emotionally and financially stable parents with billion dollar trust funds. So, Skinny, would your parents have made that cut?

Alceste 7 years, 10 months ago

Isn't it a shame that our community has allowed our L.I.N.K. program to so mutate that the homeless by choice, who control, dominate and demand; for the most part all able bodied men (with only a handful of the chronic mentally ill and disabled); essentially scare away these children and their families from securing access to the L.I.N.K. hot lunch? Hooray for the hand wringers.....NOT....

Clevercowgirl 7 years, 10 months ago

Apples and oranges. Food, clothing and shelter for displaced families is not going to happen through LINK.

mommydaycare 7 years, 10 months ago

People have a heart and stop making rude comments!!!!!! If this is not happening to you, then don't judge others. Please people have some sympathy for these poor people and always remember, you never know what the God has in store for you. Please have a heart!!!

50YearResident 7 years, 10 months ago

So you are saying these homeless children are homeless because of God's will? That was what was in store for them?

Cait McKnelly 7 years, 10 months ago

Just call God that great CEO in the sky. You'll get the picture.

Practicality 7 years, 10 months ago

I have read many comments on these forums concerning the homeless problem in Lawrence and the frustrating circumstances surrounding that problem. There have been many disparaging remarks made (and yes I have made them as well) concerning the substance abuse of many homeless in Lawrence and the belief that people come to Lawrence to receive services because their home cities do no help them.

But, I do believe that most people who comment negatively about the homeless in Lawrence would support the resources that are allocated for the homeless in this community going towards these kids and not the wet shelter.

Practicality 7 years, 10 months ago

Which statement are you referencing with your question.

The substance abuse of many homeless? Are you doubting that one?


The belief the people come to L town to receive services . . . . .? I did state belief.

roggy 7 years, 10 months ago

Practicality, Do you think there aren't children at the Lawrence Community Shelter? I just toured the shelter this morning and after reading many comments (although,not today) most people don't have a clue what they are talking about that post about the "wet" shelter. Family Promise and the Lawrence Community Shelter work very well together. There are many, many youngsters at the Lawrence Community Shelter. Family Promise can only house a very small number of families so there are many children at the only shelter in town. I suggest that anyone who thinks they are "experts" on homelessness in Lawrence set up a tour at the shelter with Loring. I didn't have a clue about the homeless but I have a totally different perspective now!

Amy Heeter 7 years, 10 months ago

Know what though, the shelter could house all of these kids & thier families if not for substance abusers by choice taking up the space

mommydaycare 7 years, 10 months ago

No, that is not what I said!!! It is so sad that people only care about themselves and not others. Be happy for what you have right now, it can all be gone in a blink of an eye, that is what I meant. Stop being so hateful on these posts. There are children involved!!! Get up and make a difference, not just judge!!!!!!!

rbwaa 7 years, 10 months ago

ok, so there are approximately 200 homeless children attending school in Douglas county and this does not include preschool children. They do not all reside in the Lawrence Community Shelter or with Family Promise so where do they live? in cars, in tents, on the street? Where is the compassion for these children and their families? There is no way that parents CHOSE homelessness for their children or themselves. I get really tired of the sanctimonious people who comment here about this issue.

Fixed_Asset 7 years, 10 months ago

Section 725 of the McKinney-Vento Act defines the following terms: (a) Homeless children and youth means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. The term includes-- (1) Children and youth who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement; (2) Children and youth who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings; (3) Children and youth who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings; and (4) Migratory children (as defined in section 1309 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended) who qualify as homeless because they are living in circumstances described in this definition. (b) Enroll and enrollment include attending classes and participating fully in school activities. (c) Unaccompanied youth includes a youth not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian.

Raiden 7 years, 10 months ago

the school district considers homeless any child/family who reside in an unsheltered area such as a campground, RV, car as well as in a motel (and we're not talking the Ritz), community shelter or doubled- up with friends or family which entails very crowded, stressful living environments. People can become homeless with little to no warning; a foreclosed home evicts the renters; a condemned home evicts the renters; losing a job (as so many have and do - knowing that so many live one paycheck away from being homeless; a health crisis that sucks dry all resources a family may have; and more. This is a serious problem. I work with these families who are desperate. My experience is that they are working hard to regain a home for their families, but it is a long and arduous process fraught with much emotional pain and frustration. I have known a single mother who was homeless with her young child who worked and kept her child in school...all while homeless. I know a single mother of 4 who continues university courses knowing it will take them out of homelessness at some point. Fortunately here in Lawrence there are agencies that can help such as the Housing Authority's programs, Family Promise, The Community Shelter, Bert Nash homeless outreach and others. I shutter to think what would be happening to these families without these resources. Homelessness crosses all socioeconomic/racial/ethnic lines....homelessness does not discriminate.

Anyone who has the mean-spiritedness to make negative comments about these folks should tour the Shelter, and remember that you may not be immune from such a situation. Life is full of the unexpected. Be careful what you may come right back at you.

Shardwurm 7 years, 10 months ago

Who cares? As long as teachers are making $250,000 a year it will all be good.

Nevermind that their parents can't afford to pay the sky-high taxes that are required to pay their salaries and the kids can't get basic food/shelter/clothing.

It's about the teachers afterall...isn't it?

persevering_gal 7 years, 10 months ago

Wow! What school do you work for? I would love to have a teaching job there! I take that back...any teacher demanding 250k/year probably isn't in it for the teaching.

Raiden 7 years, 10 months ago

Clearly clueless about your data....there are NO teachers here making anywhere near 6 figures....let's talk double digits and mid double digits at that. And for that I would like to see you manage a class of 25 second graders who have varying levels of learning disabilities, some from poverty, all manner of behavior problems, a very full academic schedule with little to no support for special needs kids, a continually raising bar for assessments just to name a manage that for a week and you'll wish you were paid $250,000. You have NO idea what you are talking about.

Christine Anderson 7 years, 10 months ago

Hey Worm, tell me where teachers are making $250,000 and I'll go back to school and get a Masters in Education. Skinny, where can many of us line up to fish slap you?

allamerican4ever 7 years, 10 months ago

maybe many of these moms should get off the ole back go to burgerking and get a job. thats whats wrong lay on your back spit out kids the system fails moms on crack dads got a job system is milking him. oh well homeless

short_one 7 years, 10 months ago

I would like to know how many of these homeless people became homeless while they were in Lawrence or were already homeless and chose to come to Lawrence because of the services provided in this community. I have read articles in the LJW that quoted social workers from Kansas City as saying they referred clients to Lawrence for homeless services because there were more services/money available in the greater KC area. In all honesty, I realize I may be naive but I just can't believe that in a town of approximately 85,000, we have as many homeless people as have been reported in various studies. Are there studies out there that show where these people are originating from? I am all about supporting people who are from our communities who have fallen on hard times but I struggle to see how Douglas county can possibly support a large percentage of the homeless people in NE Kansas/NW Missouri. When does this become a state problem instead of a community problem?

Mary Darst 7 years, 10 months ago

It is so disheartening to read some of these posts. This is a problem we shouldn't even see in the U.S. What has happened to make people so critical and uncareing about your fellow man, women and CHILDREN. It is about kids!!!!!not the circumstance they have been put in. I agree the statute on what makes kids homeless is a thin line, but without structure and the security of having a PERMANENT home, kids worry and cannot focus. This is also not about teachers....that was a ridiculas comment. Teachers are there for the kids, it sure as Hell isn't for the money. People, we need each other. Stop being so negitive and judgemental. Thanks to those who do care!!!! I think some of you need to walk in another persons shoes for a couple weeks. That inclides the homeless, the kids of those homeless, the people who work with these people and most definately a teacher who deals and works with these kids everyday. It is a sad sight. Maybe then your hearts would open up and you could sympathize for them.

Sunny Parker 7 years, 10 months ago

Don't even think about getting a job or two! Let someone else take care of you and the kids you made the choice to produce. The government....(my tax dollars) will feed you, cloth you, pay your medical bills, give you a cell phone, and give you a place to live and pay your utility bills. You sit back and take it easy while the rest of us hard workers support you.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 10 months ago

Sunny: I hope you aren't working too hard and getting grumpy about all of this. Too many Americans are at risk and anyone with lots of debt is 2-3 missing paychecks away from being homeless unless they have several months worth of income saved to get them through the hard times. Like all 'systems' the one intended to help the homeless suffers some abuse, but there is a legitimate need for many children and we need to try and help as we can, individuals and the government. If you don't do so already, volunteer a bit and get to know some of these folks.

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