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Homeless Children Get Helping Hands

While many of us are buying text books, finding new classrooms, and deciding what subjects to drop, we may forget that there are over six thousand homeless children in our state who are struggling to get a basic education.

In our nation alone, it is estimated that there are 500,000 to 750,000 homeless children. Approximately 40% of these children are not going to school. Those that do attend school lack money for school supplies, experience problems with transportation, and have trouble keeping up in the classroom due to their transient lifestyles. Overcrowded shelters do not allow much quiet study time and many children lack any form of consistency in their lives.

Ann Irby, Government and Relations Specialist at Associated Catholic Charities, reports that going to school serves as a major form of consistency in the child’s life. "School provides the first link with people that the child can see everyday--five days per week. Having the same teacher helps in the development of relationships."

Since the enactment of the McKinney Act in 1987, many states are working to provide better education programs for homeless children. Peggy Jackson-Jobe, coordinator of educational programs for homeless children at the Department of Education, explains that the McKiney Act alleviates barriers that keep kids out of school. The children are entitled to services that any other child would get, for example, free lunches or special programs.

In Baltimore and Maryland, many programs are being developed to assist in the education of homeless kids. Already in progress are the Statewide School Days Drive to be held from October 2-6. The Maryland Department of Education and local schools are collaborating to assist homeless children by providing them with novels, books and educational games. The drive’s objective is to get parents, teachers, and students involved in helping homeless kids. Churches and businesses have also volunteered to donate school supplies.

The Helping Hands Project, to be piloted in November, will provide a program staff person at the main Enoch Pratt Library to assist children with their classwork. The program will provide homeless children from nearby shelters with quiet study time.

Other plans to help children include the tutorial program in which retired teachers and lawyers would come to the shelters or nearby churches to assist children with math and language skills. Already a success is the Lady Maryland boatride for homeless children. The sailing classroom in planned to set out to sea again this fall.