Area Homeless Education Programs swamped with influx of homeless students

Community

As we wrap up the first month of the school year, a few school Homeless Education Programs across the Tri-Cities are seeing and increase in student homelessness.

It is a burden no child should have to face: homelessness.

“We serve kiddos that meet the federal definition of homelessness. They lack a fixed regular nighttime residence. Whether they’re couch surfing in a regular motel, or things like that. So, we meet them where they are and serve the entire family with whatever specific needs they have at that time,” Johnson City Schools Homeless Education Program Director Sydnee DeBusk said.

Last year, Johnson City Schools served 256 homeless students. This year so far, students have only been in school for a month and the homeless education program has surpassed 100 students.

“Sometimes they make the calls themselves. A lot of times we receive referrals from community resources from guidance counselors, social workers and food pantry staff and stuff like that.” DeBusk said, “We typically make contact within 24 hours that we receive the referral. We meet them, we kind of talk about the situation, what their needs are and then from there we just kind of address priorities.”

Students are served for the entire rest of the year, once they are identified as homeless.

“We do have some rollover kiddos that are served school year, after school year because their situation doesn’t change but it goes by the school year,” DeBusk said.

With the need also growing in Carter County, the school system has turned the part-time coordinator postion into full-time.

“We want to make sure that they have the same access to education as all other kids,” Student Support Coordinator for Carter County Schools Allison Timbs said.

So far, Carter County Public Schools is serving 42 homeless students. Last year’s year-end total was 100.

Timbs said, “We live in a very rural area, so poverty is one of the biggest reasons. Last year, we also worked with families who were in domestic violence situations and familes who went through natural disasters, such as flooding or house fires.”

This year, Carter County Public Schools has created the “Hope Room”, which holds the supplies of students’ basic needs.

“All times, we’ll have on hand clothes, shoes, hygiene items, basic household items, food. That way we’re just able to help meet those basic needs of our students,” Timbs said.

Timbs explained students often struggle with stress and anxiety which then causes them to struggle in school.

“So, when we’re able to step in, help meet those needs, you really can see the relief and the joy of being able to provide them with things like the clothes or school supplies,” Timbs said.

Items are accepted based on the current need. If you would like to help with donations, you can reach out to your local school system for a complete list.

We reached out to schools systems in our area. This is what we found. Here is a list of a few others schools in our area thus far:

  • Carter County Public Schools is serving 42. Last year’s year-end total was 100.
  • Bristol Tennessee Public Schools is serving 77. Last year’s total was 152.
  • Bristol Virginia Public Schools is serving 26, compared to last year’s 67.
  • Johnson City Schools is serving 101 students. Last year’s year-end total was 256.
  • Kingsport City Schools is serving 100 homeless students. Last year’s year-end total was 284.
  • Smyth County Public Schools is serving 3. Last year’s year-end total was 9.

If you would like to help students in your area, reach out to your respective school systems.

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