Home Preservation, Homelessness, & Education: A Powerful Mission Intersection
Home preservation has powerful direct outcomes. It allows seniors to age in place, reduce the risk of injury due to falls, and it protects home equity for someone who is low-income. As a mission, home preservation is a half step away from issues such as homelessness and education. On the spectrum of homelessness programs, home preservation is a preventative program. Repairs offer a stop-gap solution to families who are most at risk of experiencing homelessness. Stories like Ms. Tabitha’s show firsthand how repairs can provide an immediate solution to someone at risk of experiencing homelessness. Repairs are a stop-gap solution. Chelsea Bayne, Alternative Education School Counselor with Greenville County Schools, shares her experience working with homeless students in her guest blog.
Home Preservation, Homelessness, & Education: A Powerful Mission Intersection Guest Blog by Chelsea Bayne, Alternative Education School Counselor with Greenville County Schools
In a school district that serves over 76,000 students, it’s difficult to fathom that some of them may be dealing with homelessness. Greenville Homeless Alliance issued their 2019 whitepaper indicating that 1,106 students in Greenville County experienced homelessness during the 2018-2019 school year. As a school counselor in an alternative high school program, I am all too familiar with the effects this has on students.
Students in the school system who deal with homelessness are served under the McKinney Vento Act, aimed at helping students who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence have equal access to education. Greenville County Schools works hard to help these students attend the school they have been attending regardless of where they may presently be located. This means that transportation has to be provided to get students from where they currently are to the school they have been attending. Greenville County is quite large, so getting a student who may now reside with a family member or friend in Travelers Rest to their school in Fountain Inn is quite the feat.
However, what sometimes happens is families are evicted and end up moving into another place. When they move, the family enrolls the children in the school closest to their new home. When students consistently change schools like this, there’s a huge disruption: friendships, the teacher/student relationship, what the student was learning at one school before going to a new one. The resulting gaps that occur because of this functional homelessness causes academic gaps that have lasting effects on student achievement. These gaps leave our students frustrated and with feelings of hopelessness. When these feelings persist, students can end up dropping out.
One of the few blessings of COVID is that many landlords are more forgiving to tenants, allowing them to stay in spite of inability to pay. On the flip side, the change in student school attendance due to COVID has proven quite precarious for many students, but especially for our students who may be dealing with homelessness. Since March, students have been expected to log on to a Chromebook and complete work remotely utilizing their home internet. Our homeless students struggle to have a place to sleep at night, much less a home with stable internet.
Recently, a colleague and I were talking about an instance when a student was driven home because no one had come to pick him up from school. When the administrator pulled into the gravel drive she saw the adult inside the home move aside a piece of sheetrock that was being used as the front door to let the student enter. My colleague talked about how that interaction formed her as an educator, and as a person, giving her a deep realization that children in our school district live without the protection of a front door. Anytime we can come alongside these families to help them find a way to stay in a home by making it safer, more liveable, we give the students in our school district a fighting chance at high school graduation.
At Rebuild Upstate, we’re committed to doing our part to ensure those students get a fighting chance. Learn more about eligibility or make a referral for a student or family in need of repairs here.
Editor’s Note: Greenville Homeless Alliance offers data, advocacy, assistance, volunteer opportunities, and more resources to support those experiencing homelessness in Greenville. We highly recommend following them on social media and/or subscribing to their newsletter.