October 2020
Panelists offer 45 Recommendations at Roundtable Discussion
An expert group of national, state, and local leaders offered 45 recommendations to connect young children experiencing homelessness to high quality early learning.

PEC partnered with Congressperson Dwight Evans for the Roundtable Discussion held on Zoom on September 18.

Amazingly, more than 430 individuals watched live and 1,300 viewers have watched the video!   

Leading experts offered their perspective. They included: 

  • Amanda Atkinson - Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC)

  • Omari Baye - ACTS of the Apostle Emergency Housing Program

  • Tracey Campanini - Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning

  • Dr. JJ Cutuli - Nemours Children's Health System

  • Tara Dechert - Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Policy Lab

  • Kathy Desmond - People's Emergency Center (PEC)

  • Tracy Duarte - Pennsylvania Head Start Collaboration Office

  • Barbara Duffield - SchoolHouse Connection

  • Ineeze Gainey - Children's Playhouse and IAG Childcare Consulting

  • Deborah Hartranft - School District of Philadelphia

  • Beth Gonzales - Philadelphia Office of Homeless Services

  • Charlene Heeny and Trina Williams - Health Federation of Philadelphia

  • Sean Perkins - Philadelphia Office of Children and Families

  • Rashanda Perryman - Vanguard Strong Start for Kids

  • Roslyn Robinson - Woodstock Family Center

  • Elliot Weinbaum - William Penn Foundation

The recommendations can be summed up into the following actions:
In the meantime, join 1,300 other viewers by checking out the video now posted on the Congressperson's website, and read the testimony from PEC's Kathy Desmond:

  1. Thirteen similar recommendations suggested improvements in coordination through partnerships between early learning and the homeless housing systems
  2. Need for a more effective data system
  3. Increase and maintain enrollments 
  4. More resources: there were multiple suggestions to align the definition between HUD and ACF, new funding to support high quality early learning and its teachers, passage of Emergency Family Stabilization Act (EFSA), H.R. 7950

PEC will publish the 45 recommendations in an upcoming report and provide action steps.
Why is anti-eviction legislation needed?
The CDC has issued a nationwide ban on all evictions for non-payment of rent. Nevertheless, thousands of evictions are slated to begin in Philadelphia Municipal Court despite these protections.

City Council Members Jaime Gauthier, Helen Gym, and Kendra Brooks have offered new proposals to delay eviction and prohibit late fees. This legislation was approved last spring, but expired August 30.

City Council needs to reinstate the eviction moratorium to stabilize housing and find alternatives to eviction that can help landlords and tenants access support and resources. Why? PEC's James Wright (pictured here) testified at City Council's October 21st public hearing on a number of reasons why, including sharing these real life examples from PEC's prevention program:
Story #1
One woman, S., has 6 kids - 5 of whom are in DHS custody and 1 of whom lives with her (she's a 3 month old baby). S. has a history of homelessness and her children were removed in June 2019 because of inadequate housing. Following her children's removal she bounced between shelters and friends' and family's couches. After being evicted by an aunt in March 2020 and fearing for her baby's safety if they entered shelter (due to COVID), she moved in with a different aunt in West Philly. Since March, S. found a job, is in school for phlebotomy, and has completed all court-ordered goals to reunify with her children. All that she needs now is housing. A few weeks ago PEC began working with her on finding an apartment to rent, including financial assistance for the security deposit/move in costs. This week her aunt's landlord found out that S. and her daughter have been living with her and began threatening eviction if S. does not move out by July 30. S. found several rooms to rent on Craigslist but was (illegally) denied because the landlords stated they do not want to rent to women or to people with children. As a result, she is entering shelter through OHS to prevent her aunt's eviction. 
Story #2
Another woman, N. lives with her 8 year old autistic son and her elderly mother in an apartment she has rented for the last 8 years. She was laid off from her job as a flight attendant in March, just a few weeks after she went back to work from a year-long medical leave of absence that sapped her savings. She applied for unemployment and was approved, but due to administrative delays she has yet to receive any unemployment payments. With no savings or income, N. fell behind on the last 3 months of rent. She explained the situation to her landlord, but he has offered no lenience. He applied late fees to her rent bills, threatened to evict her as soon as the moratorium is lifted, and he and his wife have begun harassing her with frequent phone calls and knocking on her door at all hours of the day and night. 
The point is, an eviction moratorium is needed. We believe landlords need relief, too, and their powerful trade associations can advocate for them. PEC and other homeless service providers will advocate for renters by offering homelessness prevention services, and advocating for an eviction moratorium. Too many Philadelphians are 'cost burdened,' i.e., paying more than 30% of their incomes for housing. These Philadelphians are most at risk of becoming evicted. And there are too many of them. Something needs to happen.
Action Steps:
  1. Contact your City Council member and urge them to "Support the amendments to Emergency Housing Protection Act".

2. Sign the petition to extend the Emergency Housing Protection Act.
by Julie Gillen, PEC Children and Youth Education and Activities.

We are offering a new series that highlights how students in shelter are learning during the pandemic. We start with Jackson's* story.

10-year-old Jackson has been working hard to understand 4th grade concepts, but often struggles to keep up.

He was scheduled for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) evaluation in March, but then the pandemic struck. He often comes to PEC staff for help, and by the time we work on a question together, the teacher moves on to the next assignment. Jackson has demonstrated some signs of dyslexia and developmental delays.

In addition to struggling developmentally, Jackson is not 
familiar with using computers as he has never had one, and it takes him much longer to complete simple tasks than it takes for his classmates.

It is clear how flustered Jackson gets during his school day, yet he continues to try to learn. His desire to succeed in virtual school was evident when we mentioned that I knew of a game that could make help him with typing, and he asked for the typing game during his break.

Instead of watching YouTube on his break, he asked for a typing practice.  

Jackson fears that his classmates will discover he lives in a shelter, so he turns off his computer whenever I am helping him with work.

I can hear his teacher telling him to put his camera back on immediately, so he does.  

Yesterday, Jackson’s space bar was stuck, and he asked me for help with it. When he turned off his camera as I came over, his teacher yelled at him to put his camera back on. He quietly announced his space bar was broken. The teacher asked if there was an adult with him to verify that his space bar was broken.
When he said yes, she asked who, and he quietly said, “someone at the daycare.” He clearly did not want to announce this information, yet she asked to talk with the adult at the daycare.

In front of the entire class, she angrily explained to me how Jackson is always on the wrong subject, falling behind, and that she wanted to confirm he was not lying about the space bar. It was shocking.  

After confirming the technical difficulties with his teacher, I set up Jackson with another computer. As the laptop was slowly starting up,  (falling even further behind with each minute) I asked how that situation felt to Jackson. He expressed his frustration through saying “I am trying but there are all these tabs, and I don’t know where to go for assignments sometimes. I am confused all the time and I just wish I was in normal school where someone could tell me what we are doing when we are doing it.” 

He concluded by stating how he is used to being called out.  

Now Jackson needs to learn how to use this new laptop, all before joining the zoom meeting again.

After emailing his teacher, we met with his mom and are working with the school counselor to get the IEP. There is a long line for IEP evaluations, and it could take a year for Jackson to be evaluated. 

I am remaining in contact with his teacher to ensure we are meeting Jackson’s needs. 

Jackson is trying to simultaneously learn 4th grade and how to use a computer.

It is challenging and it is dangerous to his self-esteem. 

Check out PEC's summary of Dr. Stephen Barnett's summary of "Young Children’s Home Learning and Preschool Participation Experiences During the Pandemic.”

* Jackson is not his real name.