Confidentiality remains focus on supporting homeless students in Huntsville City Schools

WAFF 48's Margo Gray reporting
Published: Aug. 2, 2023 at 8:11 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Huntsville City Schools are hoping to bridge the gap for its homeless students by easing anxieties in the classroom.

For some, losing a job, receiving an eviction, and dealing with medical expenses, can create a situation where a family loses their home. Life must continue and children still have to learn, which is where federal assistance within our school system steps in.

The Huntsville City Schools System is providing a safe space for any homeless student within the district by creating a storage room that houses items for those affected.

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act defines homelessness as “any child who lacks a fixed regular and adequate nighttime residence.”

Nicole Harden, Special Population Liaison for Huntsville City Schools says that homelessness for children may look like a child who is ‘doubling up’ by living with family members or friends, living in hotels, motels, or are even unsheltered. Harden then goes on to say there is also unaccompanied youth that may be runaways and kids that may be couch-surfing.

The focus is to make those students feel more comfortable despite their home-life situation being filled with uncertainty. Providing resources for homeless students through the help of federal assistance helps fill the gaps in the student’s school experience to be more positive.

Towana Smith, the Federal Programs Coordinator for Huntsville City Schools says if any student requires supplies for outside-of-school related items, such as laundry detergent, toothbrushes, and more, then they have the option to receive them without feeling shame.

“But what I love is that it is very, very confidential,” said Smith. “Confidentiality is paramount especially when so many fear asking for help. We let them know we are not social workers and are not here to take their kids.”

Harden says she hopes change is implemented for homeless students by providing something as simple as a special bus stop that picks up and drops off at a shelter in Huntsville.

“We just want to help their kids,” explains Harden. “That help can come in the form of a school bus making a special stop, like protecting the students who live at New Futures Shelter for Families in Huntsville.”

New Futures Shelter executive director Tanya Rains wants to give the students more confidentiality when it comes to the stigma that may be attached to home-life situations.

”Our children will be picked up first and dropped off last time,” Rains said. “None of the other children will witness them getting off at a shelter so that there will be no stigma attached with that for the children and their families.”

Rains says her focus is to take one less worry off the 10 families housed at the New Futures Shelter.

”We really want to make sure that the kids and families feel at home and that there is no added burden because it’s hard enough for families to ask for help,” added Rains.

Families can sign up for this assistance during school registration or by contacting your district’s central office.

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