No home sweet home

No home sweet home

Homelessness is one way the poor economy has had an impact here at RB. RB has also seen its numbers of free/reduced lunch students rise along with its percentage of low-income students.

Isabel Pena, Staff Reporter

Homelessness is not a word typically associated with Riverside Brookfield High School. However, as the economy continues to worsen, the number of homeless students at RB continues to rise. According to Christine Sutton, the Homeless Education Liaison for RB, homeless students weren’t even on the school’s radar a few years ago.

Sutton estimated that RB currently has between 10 and 15 homeless students.

When it comes to combatting the effects of homelessness, Sutton expressed the importance of providing stability. “Stabilization needs to happen. These students move around a lot and they know they are not going to go to school. That’s why we have the McKinney Vento; we want to keep the kids in school,” she said.

McKinney Vento is a law protecting the rights of homeless students. It basically states everything that homeless students are entitled to. According to McKinney Vento, any homeless student is entitled to participate in a support program, school-related activities, and other support services. Also, any school fees are waived, and they are entitled to immediate school enrollment even if they lack health immunization or school records, proof of guardianship, or proof of residency. The point is to get the students enrolled in school as soon as possible.

This situation, however, can affect the students’ school work. Joe*, who has been homeless for six months, said, “I do think a lot about what is going to happen next and where we are going to live. Sometimes I worry about food, so I am not always focused.”

Plans for the future can also change due to a student’s situation. Joe said, “I’ve learned how hard it is to find and keep jobs. My mom works two jobs and it’s still not enough. I want to get a job to help my family with money. I would like to go to college, but I’m not sure.”

Homeless students go through a typical day with different worries than their classmates. Joe said, “I have a lot more stress. One of the hardest things is to hear kids complain about not having this thing or that thing or they complain about their family. I just don’t want to hear it.”

Some students talk to Sutton for support. Joe said, “I talk to Ms. Sutton, the social worker. I don’t think I would talk to other kids in a group. You don’t want people to know your situation.”

When Sutton was asked what is being done in terms of seeking help from the community, Sutton said, “I work with Pillars, who provide resources such as housing, food, medical, dental, and counseling. I also work with the local churches for food and with the RB faculty for clothes. We try to give as much support as possible with all the services we can, but we need more. We need more stability.”

Sutton was asked what was being done to decrease the number of homeless students, Sutton said, “There’s not much we can do since it’s an issue outside of school. Families will continue to struggle because of the economy and cost of living. Jobs don’t pay as well and this can be challenging for families.”

*The name of this student has been changed at his or her request to protect his or her privacy.