January 2021
On the right, Roslyn Edwards, with Tracey Duarte at the Building Early Links for Learning forum.
Supporting Early Childhood Education for Children Experiencing Homelessness
Roslyn Edwards, Director of Early Childhood Education
People's Emergency Center

Happy New Year Friends, 
Decades of research demonstrate that high quality early childhood education can help break the cycle of poverty by helping young children learn and grow. 

For Philadelphia’s families residing in shelter, it is challenging to find a home and a place for their children to learn. This can feel overwhelming. 

People's Emergency Center (PEC) has been working with families, shelters, and early childhood education centers since 2016 to improve social and educational outcomes for children in shelter through Building Early Links for Learning (BELL).

Steady progress was made enrolling children in high quality education programs, until many early learning programs shuttered as a result of the spread of COVID-19 last year.

We launch 2021 with the report from our 'Roundtable Discussion' with Congressperson Dwight Evans and 16 experts who discussed the promise of early childhood education for young children experiencing homelessness. We held this event last fall, and more than 435 people participated in the discussion. 

These experts, from the homeless services and early childhood education sectors identified more than 50 recommendations, which we have summarized into four key themes: 

  • Improvements in coordination through partnerships: Continue and expand partnerships with stakeholders like parents, education centers, and housing providers. 

  • Data: Develop a more effective data system so that we can target specific support to each of the child in shelter. 

  • Increase and maintain enrollment: There is a need to locate and enroll more children experiencing homelessness into high quality programming and the need to maintain these enrollments as families' circumstances change, especially during the COVID19 pandemic. 

  • Strengthen the safety net: Advocate that HUD expand its definition/criteria for funding to include early childhood supports, bolster existing and develop new resources to ensure that families experiencing homelessness are served. 
Next Steps: We will organize a variety of efforts on these key themes during the coming months. Stay tuned. 
Reimagining Homelessness Assistance
for Children and Families
Mother and toddler
Barbara Duffield from SchoolHouse Connection examines this topic in the article "Reimagining homelessness assistance for children and families," published in the Journal of Children and Poverty.

This policy brief argues that children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness have been poorly served by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's dominance, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It proposes that other federal agencies, specifically the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education, are better suited to provide comprehensive homeless assistance for children, youth, and families. The author draws from research, policy analyses, and testimonies of parents, service providers, and educators to make the case for a reimagined homelessness response that is child-centered and oriented toward long-term goals of economic independence, health, and wellness. 

"Hill Day" Planned for March
Youth HEALers meeting
Dominique Marshall, Youth Organizer
People's Emergency Center

A new year and new administration bring new opportunities for youth to be heard.

Youth HEALers Stand Up!, PEC’s Policy department, and other fellow organizations will be organizing a virtual “Hill Day” during the National Network 4 Youth’s (NN4Y) Annual Summit on Youth Homelessness. Advocacy days like this one help youth voices to be heard directly by federal legislators and their staff.

We will advocate for a number of issues that affect youth experiencing homelessness nationally, including the McKinney-Vento Act (for the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness) and the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. 

The change starts when we raise our voices, but we need to follow through with legislators to be certain that we were heard. We have made progress, but there is still work to be done.

The virtual Hill Day will be March 25th with exact times still to be determined. You are welcome you to join us! If you are interested in participating, please email Dominique Marshall at dmarshall@pec-cares.org.

Information about NN4Y’s Summit, which is from March 24th to the 25th, is here.