invisible homeless kids

Hard to imagine that in this country way over 3 MILLION kids are without homes. H-O-M-E-L-E-S-S Kids. I don't get it. Are we willing to discard these kids? Not me. So this blog will relentlessly focus on this issue, hoping to light a spark to fuel a compassion epidemic. Chime in, argue, but do something....

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sweet Victory for a Monday Morning!

Being connected is a good thing sometimes. This weekend I received an email via the HEAR US website.
Hello I currently reside in Houston Tx and I thought I had a clear understanding of a child with no permanent address being allowed to go to school where ever obviously I was wrong. On Dec 4 2009 my granddaughter was withdrawn from school after being interrogated and left tearful.Before the school year started my daughter checked with the district and they said it was fine for her to be enrolled in school out of the area where we were staying with no permanent address bu to notify them when we did have an address
It's these kind of situations that make me glad I do what I do, and that we a strong, simple law that guides school districts on the right course of action. After playing phone tag, we finally connected late Sunday evening, after midnight in Houston. I only hesitated a moment when calling that late, knowing this grandmother was going to need help in a few short hours.

She was awake and glad I called. She explained the situation, that she, her daughter, and granddaughter live together in an apartment temporarily provided by her pastor who couldn't stand the thought of them sleeping in their car. This arrangement is coming to an end soon; the place is being sold.

But in the meantime, in snowy Houston on Friday, the granddaughter's school made plans to close at noon so no one would be snowed in. Calls and emails went to parents to pick up the kids. The grandmother usually provided transportation but was unable to be reached, and some confusion unfolded at the school with the granddaughter and school staff.

It is usually the confusion that "tips off" the school that something is askew with residency. Evidently that's what happened. Sadly, I've seen this happen; vigilante mentality takes over. It can be ugly.

The grandmother she hid this withdrawal decision from her granddaughter and got on the Internet. Somehow she found the HEAR US website, and figured that HEAR US might be able to help, thus her email to me.

Talking to her that evening, she shared some of her struggles--loss of housing due to mental illness that caused her to lose a job. Both she and her daughter, the girl's mother, work. Between them they try to pull in enough to make housing payments, but once you get behind, it's tough to catch up.

They've stayed in her car, in motels, and with friends. Now they're in this apartment, outside the district where the girl attends school. GM drives her to school. I could tell school was important--to both of them.

Based on what the GM described and according to the McKinney-Vento law, the girl appeared to be homeless. Since this school was where she attended before, she should be able to stay there if the family chooses. And, the district should provide transportation, free lunch, and supplies, among other things. I directed the GM to our REACH film, available for free viewing online, which outlines the M-V law in a mere 11-minutes. And I gave her language to request the "dispute resolution" process if things went bad.

I wished her luck and asked her to call to let me either intervene if necessary or to tell me how it went. And I crawled into bed.

Early that morning, the GM called. She was ecstatic! She succeeded in asserting her granddaughter's rights. OH YEA! She felt so good about this, and was so grateful for my help. Me, I was extremely grateful that she found me, and delighted to help.

Such a sweet experience, which makes today's release of the 2009 US Conference of Mayors annual homeless/hunger report so pathetic.

Knowing what I do about how these things go, this report, for whatever good intention might be behind it, does nothing but add more confusion to the definition of homelessness.

You see, this GM's family doesn't fall under the definition of "homeless" because they're not staying at a HUD-funded shelter or sleeping on the streets. So they don't count.

Seems to me this nation's mayors need a lesson in Homelessness 101. I know just the teacher. She's a GM from Houston, and she knows her stuff. If you're so inclined, sign our online petition
(and spread the word!) to strengthen this law further. You'll be easing the way for some grandparents, parents and caretakers have tools to fight for their kids' education. Maybe the kids will run for mayor....

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