Educational Awareness of Homeless Students in the Public-School Community
The number of homeless children and youth enrolled in public-schools has doubled over the past 20+ years (Sparks, 2019). This attributed to lack of affordable housing, unemployment, domestic violence, economic instability, medical/mental health issues and natural disasters (Sparks, 2019). Therefore, generating many educational barriers due to the disruption and trauma of not having a fixed, regular, and adequate place to reside (U.S. Department of Education, 2020). Research and literature on interventions for homeless students are limited and/or outdated. There does not appear to be a universal model or framework that could be implemented across all public-school districts and/or all grade levels in the U.S. The project focuses on the significance of public-schools offering a place of stability, safety, and supportive services for students experiencing homelessness. The project looks beyond the social and physical barriers that potentially suppress motivation to achieve educational-related change of those students experiencing homeless. The project was guided by the McKinney Vento Homeless Model and the ecological system framework, using a pre and post-test survey design. The project was conducted virtually over 3-consecutive days, utilizing the same participants that serve as homeless liaisons in the Greenwood Leflore Consolidated School District. Participants consisted of 24 district employees, female/male, of various ethnicity/race who self-identified as school administrators, school social workers, or district registration staff members. The content during the educational workshops raised awareness of homelessness, the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act, and effective supportive services/resources for students experiencing homeless. The findings indicated that participants were cognizant on the definition of homeless, had limited understanding of the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act and lacked knowledge of supportive services and resources for students experiencing homelessness. Participants acknowledged limited training as a factor on their perception of homeless students, well as the lack of knowledge pertaining to services/resources. Contributing recommendations at the district level included revising GLCSD Student Handbook to include policies relating to homeless students/families, incorporating a District Homeless Resource Team, designing a District Resource Manual/Website Accessibility, providing ongoing educational workshops for all district employees, and creating “Safe Space” sites customized for homeless students in all 12 school locations in the Greenwood Leflore Consolidated District. Implications for practitioners and educators include incorporating district policies and program interventions using a holistic approach to call attention to homelessness and promote student wellness in the public-school community (academically, emotionally, and socially).