Back to School with no Home to return to:
The beginning of a new school year is always stressful for families: coordinating schedules, shopping for supplies, and arranging transportation and afterschool care. Imagine what it would be like if your family was homeless.
Homelessness is an isolating and traumatic experience. When families go into shelter, they are uprooted from their community, which often means that children have to change schools. Chris Berg, FamilyAid Boston's Education and Employment Coordinator, explains: "Every time a child changes schools, it means lost relationships and routines - children have new teachers, classmates, and athletic coaches. It can take children several months to adjust socially and academically. Children are already facing an unstable housing situation, and the stress of a new school environment causes additional trauma. Many students also hide their homelessness for fear of judgement from classmates."
School clothes, uniforms, shoes, backpacks, pencils, pens, glasses - the list goes on and on. Every parent wants to provide their child with the supplies and financial support that they need to succeed in the classroom. The average cost of sending one elementary school student back to school is $650. The cost balloons to $1,400 for high school students. In some cases, students may even face punishment for lacking the appropriate school supplies and uniforms. For homeless parents who are working to regain their stability, these expenses are often unaffordable.
The Digital Divide:
Most schools now require that children have access to a computer in their home in order to complete school work and communicate with parents. This places homeless children at an extreme disadvantage. While living in shelter, families often do not have access to computers or a reliable internet connection. Children who lack access to technology fall behind their peers and are at an increased disadvantage when it comes to succeeding in the 21st century.
Students who can't walk or drive to school must rely instead on public transportation. As many of us know, buses and trains are not always reliable and can be difficult or unsafe for a child to navigate. Late or absent buses lead to tardiness and missed classes, reflecting poorly on a student who has no control over the situation.
Parents with inflexible work schedules, unreliable transportation, and unstable living situations sometimes cannot even get their children to school. Our social workers often find the children that they work with miss valuable lesson time as a result of their instability at home.
There are nearly 4,000 homeless students in the Boston Public Schools. You can help us provide homeless children with the stability they need to succeed in school -
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