Back to School Time for Homeless Children

by Donald Whitehead
Originally published in Cincinnati Homeless Grapevine, a precursor to Streetvibes.

Going back to school is always a little uncertain for children. Many tough questions come to wind: Will I like my new teachers? Will I be the prettiest girl or the cutest boy in my class? Will my new clothes be as nice as the other kids’?

If you are a member of the largest growing sector of the homeless population (women and children), however, the questions are a much more serious and a lot more confusing. How long will I be in school before I have to move? Will my parents find me a place to live? Will I have any clothes, shoes, or a haircut? These are the questions that homeless children are asking as they begin the new school year–according to Melinda Vooris, Director of the Salvation Army’s Emergency Shelter.

According to Debbie Reinhart of Project Connect, there are several things homeless families need to know about education.

-Your child is entitled to a “free and appropriate education.”
-Your child does NOT need a permanent address in order to attend school.
-In order to register your child for school you will need your child’s birth certificate and immunization records.

However, beyond the logistics, back to school for the homeless is a trying experience.

Shirley Ham, also from the Salvation Army, said, “Harder than the material things is how they feel. The thing that makes it so hard is that they feel bad that they’re at a homeless shelter and they can’t tell their peers. They tell them they’re staying with grandma or some other relative so their peers won’t look down on them.”

Project Connect is available to homeless families dealing with educational issues. They can be contacted at 513-475-7043.