GOING HOMELESS: NEARLY 250 CITY SCHOOLS STUDENTS LACK STABILITY
For most students, when the final bell rings it means it’s time to head home. But for others, going home takes on a whole new meaning, because they have nowhere they can call their own.
Tuscaloosa City Schools Attendance Coordinator Charles Anthony said it’s the system’s job to provide stability for homeless students.
“We keep them in their school origin, so that they are not bouncing around from school to school to school,” he said. “Then we try to make sure they are in a stable environment.”
That environment includes social workers partnering with families to make sure students have food and clothing. Anthony said the McKenney Vento Law, passed in 1987, protects students who do not have adequate housing.
“Many of our (homeless families) are doubled up,” he said. “They live in situations where one morning, someone was upset and said ‘get out of my house,’ and they have to get out. They have no legal right to be there, and so McKinney Vento realizes that and takes into consideration that those people really don’t have a home.”
The consequences of homelessness can be devastating and long-lasting for young children. In fact, children who lack stable housing face a host of challenges that impact their mental and physical development, such as lack of sleep, hunger and constant fear.
“Some families actually slept in cars,” Anthony said. “We have had families that are sleeping outside and they don’t want it to be known. They have kids who are told not to say anything to anybody.”
Children, Anthony said, are the biggest victims in homeless situations, because they had no control over the decisions that put them there, and they have no power to change their circumstances.
At the moment, Anthony said, there are 249 students in the Tuscaloosa City Schools system identified as homeless. Last year, there were about 323 students with that designation.