Some people don’t wake up in a warm bed.
Some people don’t have homes.
Some of those people are children.
According to Paulette Wall, Homeless Coordinator for Richmond County Schools, the district has 117 homeless children and youth on file.
Wall said the state defines a homeless child as one who sleeps in a hotel, motel, RV, domestic violence shelter, or whose family is doubled up with another family in their home.
“We try to evaluate who they are and get them free lunch and transportation,” said Wall, who said she can’t identify the children for confidentiality reasons.
“We have had some that were truly on the street,” said Wall. “The biggest downfall of this county is that there is no shelter for women and children and youth. It’s a safety issue for teens. The biggest numbers of homeless children come from the high school. Sometimes there is a situation where a child has been put out from the home. We call these ‘unaccompanied youth.’”
Wall called it an “epidemic happening right here,” and said that many teens move from one friend’s couch to another, which she said is called “couching.”
Wall said a homeless fair is being scheduled for May, for homelessness awareness. Vendors come out to offer their services — such as Richmond Community College which offers GED classes — and rehabilitation centers offer advice for addiction and educate parents on the rights they have. Wall said sometimes people who have been homeless give testimony, to let others know they are not alone, and hardships can be managed and overcome.
Wall said programs that assist the homeless protect the self-esteem of the family by calling them “families in transition.” This implies that homelessness isn’t “rock-bottom” and solutions are available.
According to Richmond County Schools Public Information Officer Ashley Simmons, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act, under Title X of No Child Left Behind (through which the grant is made possible), requires that the state conduct a monitoring exercise with local systems.
The monitoring is designed to ensure compliance with the Act. The monitoring exercise is conducted by officials with the North Carolina Homeless Education Program. During the visit these officials come into the district to examine current protocols, policies and documentation with regard to homeless students in the school district.
The Richmond County Schools visit was conducted on Feb. 8.
Marsha Porter, Director of Federal Programs for Richmond County Schools, said, “We recently had our first on-site Homeless Monitoring visit and our site monitor was pleased with the organization of our homeless program. She was highly impressed with our extensive community partnership network that Paulett has worked so diligently to develop. These efforts have and will continue to ensure that these students are connected with the resources they need to be prepared for school.”
Paulette Wall works at Leak Street High School. She can be reached at Paulettwall@richmond.k12.nc.us or by calling 910-997-9800.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.