Decatur City Schools creates new Homeless Education Resource Officer position to help growing unhoused population

WAFF 48's Megan Plotka reporting
Published: Jul. 19, 2023 at 11:07 AM CDT

DECATUR, Ala. (WAFF) - The Decatur City School district is hiring a Homeless Education Resource Officer to help the growing number of unhoused students in the school system.

Decatur City Schools Federal Programs Supervisor Dr. Melissa Scott says the homeless population in Decatur is seeing a slight increase and the new position could help those students perform better at school.

On a national level, the number of homeless students in public schools increased by 90% since 2008. They face a variety of problems compared to their housed counterpart. They struggle with chronic absenteeism and reaching their basic needs to be able to perform well in school, like a comfortable place to sleep and sufficient food.

The officer would connect homeless families to resources in the community to help them with these issues. At the beginning of the school year, parents can register with the school disclosing they are homeless and open to receive the resources.

WAFF 48's Megan Plotka reporting

The resource officer will check in with the students and connect them with local agencies to get them the help they may need.

“Someone to just help garner the community support for the homeless students because a lot of times when families are homeless they don’t want the world to know,” says Dr. Scott. “Having someone they feel safe with, they feel comfortable with, and that has helped them along the way is where this came from.”

Dr. Scott says they are looking for candidates with an associate’s degree for the part-time position. She says they want the candidates to be friendly and work well with others because they have to work closely with homeless families.

“You definitely want to garner that community resources and support for our homeless students,” says Dr. Scott. “We want to provide our needs for our homeless students that may be going out and gathering supplies and whatever they may need to help them make it from day to day.”

They received a grant from the federal government to cover the officer’s salary and they hope to fill the position by the beginning of the school year.

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