January 25, 2012 —
At their school board meeting Wednesday night, Hudson Area Schools Counselor Karen Cheney gave a presentation about the services the school provides to homeless students. Their participation in the program is required by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, but school officials just passed their audit of their participation and passed with flying colors.
The McKinney-Vento Homeless requires state Departments of Education to identify, track and provide assistance to students who lack a “fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.”
Homeless students can be broken into three categories: doubled up, transitional and unaccompanied youth. Doubled up students are students whose families do not have a home for a variety of reasons, such as fire or economics. It basically applies anytime a family has to move in with another family, however, “families who share adequate housing on a long-term basis due to preference or convenience would not be covered by the act.”
Transitional students are those whose situations are similar to doubled up students, but not as long term, i.e., if a family has to go to a shelter for some reason, even if only for a short time period.
Finally, there are unaccompanied youth, which are the students that most people would think of as homeless. Youth who are 17 years of age or older that often are couch surfers or staying with friends. The hardest thing with this group of students is that these are the ones who take up the most time and counseling hours, because they’re relying on the graciousness of friends and family, and sometimes outstay their welcome. Their accommodations are often the most tenuous and temporary. Currently, Hudson Area Schools is serving approximately 25 students who qualify as homeless according to the McKinney-Vento Act.
“It says a lot about our staff who help us identify these kids, and our counseling department who do so well by discreetly identifying their needs,” says Counselor Karen Cheney.
“Initially, we provide them with a free breakfast and lunch so we know they’re getting two good meals a day. We provide them with clothing, make sure they have a winter coat, gloves, school supplies, and personal care items. A lot of these items are donated, and we try to keep a little stack of them in the office so there’s no lag time,” said Cheney.