Hiding in Plain Sight: Homeless Students
Brevard County is certainly a lovely community — beautiful beaches, high-tech companies, well-kept neighborhoods and an A-rated school district. But under the surface, lurks a heartbreaking reality that most might not know exists: homeless students.
You may be surprised to learn that there are 1,629 “officially documented” homeless students in Brevard. This figure probably does not reflect the true number since it is based on self-reporting by families and taken at a time when distance learning was in full swing. The number is most likely higher and most likely to grow due to the economic instability created by the COVID-19 crisis.
An even more startling fact is that there are a large number of unaccompanied youth, or students living without their family members, while dealing with their homelessness. Many times, these students are couch surfing, working and still attending school full-time.
What is being done to help these students succeed in school? Fortunately, there are measures in place to assist these youth and their families, according to Kacey Daniels, Students in Transition liaison manager with Brevard Public Schools.
“We assist these students by providing stability by allowing them to continue to stay at their original school, or school of origin, even if they move out of the area temporarily,” Daniels said. “This allows students to be with teachers, friends and the community that they have built relationships with.”
There are still many barriers for these students, but being transient tends to be the biggest impediment because many times, students have to pack up and leave with little warning and only with what they can carry. This often means leaving school supplies behind.
Brevard Schools Foundation (BSF) is helping to alleviate this problem by providing school and hygiene supplies to homeless students all year long. By coordinating with Daniels and her team of homeless liaisons, students in-need can get access to these basics.
The pandemic created another layer of issues for homeless students. With schools closed, these students did not always have access to food and had limited resources for e-learning. Through the generosity of community donors, BSF was able to help fill some of these gaps by providing grocery gift cards and wifi hotspots for homeless students.
There is certainly a lot more work to be done to remedy this complex social issue. However, statistics show that helping homeless students complete their education is vital to breaking the cycle of poverty.
If you would like to learn how you can help homeless students in Brevard, contact the Foundation office at info@BrevardSchoolsFoudation or 321-633-1000 ext. 11454. Together, we can make a big difference!
Tracy Steele, is a non-profit professional with more than 30 years of experience in education, healthcare and philanthropy. The community engagement and marketing manager Brevard Schools Foundation is a long-time Brevard County resident and University of Central Florida graduate. She is a proud mom of three sons.
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