Guest PerspectivesWe gain invaluable insights from school district liaisons, state coordinators, service providers and young people. Here is our collection of guest perspectives.
May 26, 2020
On April 30th, SchoolHouse Connection hosted a webinar featuring three young leaders from our Youth Leadership and Scholarship Program who are navigating higher education during the coronavirus pandemic. During the webinar, the students shared their experiences, challenges, and advice for other students, higher education professionals, and service providers. This blog post has been repurposed from the webinar.
Five Questions with Dr. Patricia Popp: Training is Critical to Support Students Experiencing Homelessness
May 14, 2020
“I was a teacher for students with disabilities when I entered the William & Mary doctoral program almost 25 years ago. I still see myself primarily as an educator. I truly believe that nothing we do in education makes a difference unless it affects a student. Since teachers have the most direct influence on our students, it is imperative that they be part of our work in homeless education.”
Implementing State Law to Support College Students Experiencing Homelessness: Lessons from the First Tennessee Convening
Apr 2, 2020
In early March, prior to widespread school closures related to the coronavirus outbreak, SchoolHouse Connection (SHC) hosted a statewide convening on higher education and homelessness in Tennessee. We hosted three in-person convenings in Murfreesboro, Knoxville, and Memphis and live-streamed the convening. Together, we had over 100 people in attendance. The purpose of the convening was to help institutions implement HB 1000 / SB 763, a new state law that requires each post-secondary institution in Tennessee to designate a Homeless Student Liaison to assist students experiencing homelessness in applying for and receiving financial aid and available services.
Mar 24, 2020
Written by Jordyn Roark, Director of Youth Leadership and Scholarships at SchoolHouse Connection. "As a college student, I experienced a devastating hurricane, where most of the town I lived in was flooded. I remember this experience as being scary, filled with loss, and ultimately extremely traumatic -- especially on top of the trauma of my own homelessness. As I navigate my current professional role supporting students who are homeless during the Coronavirus outbreak, I have been reflecting on my experiences as a student." In this guest perspective, Jordyn shares strategies she has used to support our scholars and young leaders in the hopes that it will help others, as well as begin to build a foundation for best practices in the midst of a global pandemic.
Briya Public Charter School Goes the Extra Mile to Ensure All Students are Counted in the 2020 Census
Mar 9, 2020
By Johanna Ulseth, Student Services Coordinator and Homeless Liaison at Briya Public Charter School, Washington DC. As the 2020 United States Census is approaching, Briya and Mary’s Center have been working together to ensure that all of our students are informed of the process and empowered to participate. This blog details how Briya Public Charter Schools in Washington, DC are ensuring everyone gets counted in 2020.
Feb 19, 2020
Jo Zimmer, MPAE, owner of Beyond-the-Box Strategies, LLC, brings more than 20 years’ experience in safety net programs, most recently to the 28-county Rural Oregon Continuum of Care (ROCC), in her contracted role as Consultant/Coordinator for the Oregon team’s State Partnerships on Student Homelessness Project. By helping agencies and entities cooperatively address issues of housing, homelessness, and poverty in rural Oregon, she hopes to assist communities in doing “better” with less and reframe traditional thinking about funding and service delivery. In this blog, Jo tells us about host homes in Oregon and how they help promote high school graduation for students experiencing homelessness.
Jul 19, 2019
Destiny explains, “Having had to silently deal with so many mental health issues and watching others struggle in their own ways, I have developed a passion to want to help those struggling to find inner peace.” Here, Destiny explains how education has been a powerful force in her life--and how she’s compelled to help other students experiencing homelessness be their own best advocates.
Dec 2, 2019
Tina Marie is a SchoolHouse Connection Young Leader and the current Director of the A Bed for Every Child program at the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, which seeks to provide beds for children who are living in poverty without a bed of their own. Before leading this program, she was the Coalition’s Community Organizer and Legislative Advocate, helping to manage successful public policy campaigns that directly addressed the need to prevent and end homelessness by strengthening state-funded resources for Massachusetts’ most vulnerable residents. During this time, Tina Marie often shared her own experiences as a homeless youth at the state and federal level to help identify the needs of youth who are at-risk of or are currently experiencing homelessness.
Oct 21, 2019
We interview Anne Giordano, MA, DSP, IMH-E®, who is an Early Childhood Specialist at EdAdvance in Litchfield, CT. She has coordinated a McKinney-Vento subgrant for the school district, provides training for the CT Association in Infant Mental Health, and frequently develops and provides training at the state and national levels on the impact of homelessness on expectant parents, young children and their families.
Oct 2, 2019
Authored by: Heather Denny, State Coordinator for Homeless Education, Montana Office of Public Instruction. "I’ve been to countless conferences. I’ve sat through hours of professional development. I’ve probably spent days conferring with liaisons, service providers, school administrators, national policy experts, advocates, and my peers who do this work. But when a youth experiencing homelessness came to stay with me and my family, I learned more in one week than I’ve learned in a very long time."
Sep 23, 2019
In this guest perspective, Jani Koester, Resource Teacher with Madison Metropolitan School District’s Transition Education Program, reminds us that “Back to School” happens all year long for students experiencing homelessness, and that being prepared for a new student, and taking time for transitions, are essential practices for success.
Sep 6, 2019
In this guest perspective, Kathy Mustacato Wigtil, Ed.D., Baylor University, offers insights from her students and her research on how educators can better support students experiencing homelessness.
Putting all the Pieces Together: Creating Opportunities for Success for Students Experiencing Homelessness at USF
Sep 30, 2019
The University of South Florida (USF) is enhancing its services to students who are currently or have been homeless. Identification and outreach, tailored wellness coaching, a website specific to this population, year-round housing opportunities, and the redesign of a process by which homeless students can receive a tuition waiver are all components of our approach to fostering the success of these high-priority USF students.
Aug 21, 2019
Amy Kendall, Program Director of the Maryville Crisis Nursery, and Chris Perille, Maryville Crisis Nursery Advisory Council member, describe how crisis nurseries provide essential support to families with urgent needs, including families experiencing homelessness.
Identifying Students Experiencing Homelessness: How Small Changes in Email Communications Can Achieve Big Results, Part I
Aug 13, 2019
Daniel Shephard is the President of the Implementation Science and Communication Strategies Group and a former member of the Office of Evaluation Sciences and the Obama administration's White House Social and Behavioral Sciences Team. He writes here about his perspective on the behaviorally-informed email communications project developed by the Office of Evaluation Sciences.
Jul 1, 2019
This piece by Homeless Education Liaison Sue Lenahan is the first in a series of blog posts that, in five questions, captures some of the most pressing challenges, inspiring triumphs, and innovative strategies experienced and implemented by practitioners supporting students experiencing homelessness around the country.
May 20, 2019
There is always a sense of pride and accomplishment in the days leading up to a graduation ceremony. Some students will continue their studies in graduate or professional schools; some may have job offers already lined up; and some may still be figuring out their next steps. In this guest perspective, authors from Western Carolina University share strategies for helping vulnerable youth make a successful transition after college.
May 1, 2019
By Miguel Arellano Sanchez, Basic Needs Navigator at The Human Services Resource Center (HSRC) at Oregon State University (OSU). Navigating college as a first-generation college student can feel like making your way through a maze with no map, filled with “learn as you go” lessons, and “wow, I wish I knew this then.” When you combine it with being low-income, homeless, and/or food insecure, it can feel like you’re navigating the same maze blindfolded, on a tightrope, balancing multiple responsibilities. It should not be like this.
Apr 11, 2019
I recall vividly the day that Mary Jean called me, over twenty years ago, to ask if the National Coalition for the Homeless would set up a scholarship fund in memory of her husband. At the time, I was very intimidated by Mary Jean – she was a giant in our world of homeless education. She made homeless children and youth a priority at the federal level, long before legislation mandated it.
Mar 8, 2019
"When I learned about SchoolHouse Connection’s Tennessee legislation to help college students experiencing homelessness, I immediately was compelled to reach out to my legislators asking for their support. I know the tangible, long-term value of education in overcoming homelessness. I know it because I have lived it. Here is my letter to my legislators urging them to support legislation to help college students experiencing homelessness."
Feb 27, 2019
By Ross E. O’Hara, Ph.D., Behavioral Researcher at Persistence Plus. “Imagine going to college yet living on the brink of financial disaster. That’s the situation in which Terry* found himself during his first semester at a community college in northeastern Ohio. Initially excited about starting college and earning his associate’s degree, he quickly became pessimistic, texting to us by the seventh week of the semester, ‘I used to be bad at failing now I’m even better at it!’
Real Families, Real Solutions: How Homeless Service Providers Can Meet the Needs of Young Children and Their Families
Jan 31, 2019
By Carol Klocek, CEO, Center for Transforming Lives, Ft. Worth, TX. "There is no cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all solution to family homelessness...Real solutions are as complex as the families who experience homelessness. But if we truly want to end family homelessness in our communities, we must take the time to find and create real solutions for real families."
Jan 17, 2019
By Jill Getman, Homeless Tutor, Independence School District, Missouri. "Education is the key to ending homelessness, and if I can help one student in their journey, I’ve done my job. Each week when I walk in, I know I will see new faces; but more often than not, I see a face I have seen the previous week, along with a hug and an “I’m so glad you are back!”"
Jan 9, 2019
In this guest perspective from Tori Vohland, Children in Transition High School Liaison and Jennifer Harris, Program Evaluator at the Washoe County School District, they hope to inspire others working in PreK-12 educational settings to examine rates of chronic absenteeism among the students they serve and think about how they might use absenteeism data to help identify students who are experiencing homelessness.
Jan 2, 2019
In Chicago, Depaul USA has focused its work on serving the estimated 50 DePaul University students who experience homelessness each academic quarter. Depaul USA created the Dax Program in 2015, providing housing, case management, counseling referrals, transportation, food and book stipends, and educational reimbursements to homeless students.
Dec 5, 2018
By Barbara Anita Baldwin, Senior Coordinator of Site Management, Early Learning Division, ABCD Inc., Bridgeport, CT. "One day, he looked out the window watching the construction outside. I asked him what he was thinking. He stated that he was tired of the doors always changing color. I asked him, “What color were the doors?” He told me red, brown, and blue. He stated he just wanted to get back to his door. The red door."
Nov 8, 2018
Many college students experiencing homelessness are also hungry and food insecure. In response, some colleges and universities create food banks and food pantries. In honor of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, we highlight Holyoke Community College's unique strategy to raise awareness, partner with faculty, and create delicious recipes by creating a “Chopped Challenge.” Read here.
Oct 22, 2018
By Jillian Sitjar, Program Manager of Higher Education at SchoolHouse Connection. "Attending #RealCollege 2018 was a “crash course” in the best sort of way. This conference was unlike any I have ever attended. Here are my top three reflections of the #RealCollege Covening."
Oct 9, 2018
By Mary Ellen Mitchell, Co-Director, Lydia’s House, Cincinnati, OH. "On the early afternoon of August 21, 2018, we received a call to our intake line. St. Vincent de Paul asked us to provide housing for a young woman, Mia, and her three-year-old daughter, Kiley. We were told that Mia had been living in her car with Kiley for over a month.”
Oct 2, 2018
By Debra Albo-Steiger, District Homeless Liaison for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. "The trauma faced by the children, youth, and adults who experience hurricanes or any natural disaster can be felt for years. A year after these storms, we still see the hardship faced by so many with roofs that have not been repaired and homes that were not able to be saved."
Sep 12, 2018
By Ed Vere. Ed graduated with Highest Honors from a Blue Ribbon High School District in Illinois. He is a third-year Urban Studies student at Wheaton College. “This past June, my SchoolHouse Connection peers and I came from all over the U.S. to Washington, D.C. to speak truth — our truths — to power and to each other… Our time together was a revival of some sort … of resiliency, of being nurtured, and of past pain and trauma."
Aug 10, 2018
By DJ QuirinMa, Federal Programs Data Analyst, Montana Office of Public Instruction, Christy Hendricks, Data control specialist for CTE, Montana Office of Public Instruction, and Heather Denny, State Coordinator for Homeless Education, Montana Office of Public Instruction. “Here in Montana, we began to look at the programs that all high schools, both urban and rural, already had in place. We found that for students experiencing homelessness, the completion of three or more Career and Technical Education courses lowered the likelihood of dropping out by half. There were no dropouts among the students who participated in a Career and Technical Student Organization.”
Aug 9, 2018
By Brandy S. Gros M.A., Founder/CEO, Dorm Room Dreamz L3C. “I never thought about that!” “There’s such a thing as homeless college students?” These are the common reactions I get when I explain what Dorm Room Dreamz L3C (DRDz) is all about.
Jul 23, 2018
By Destiny Dickerson, an SHC scholar who is majoring in Psychology at San Diego State University. "I did not sleep in a tent, or on a park bench, but I was still homeless. There are many students and people who are living just like me and deserve to be validated in their homeless status. We have already lost so much. We deserve to be recognized.”
Jul 9, 2018
By Megan "Mutt" Martin. Megan, age 20, graduated from the Anchorage School District, AK. She is majoring in Nursing at The University of Alaska, Anchorage. "I realized that I was an advocate. I wasn’t just a youth spinning a sob story to get someone’s attention. I was a young adult talking about the realities that homeless youth face. I faced these realities in my childhood, and I know that many others still face them, and will continue to face them in childhoods yet to come."
Jun 7, 2018
By Jani Koester, President of the Dane County WI Homeless Services Consortium Board of Directors, Resource Teacher with Madison Metropolitan School District’s Transition Education Program. "Mom went to coordinated intake to check on the status of their name on the priority list and found out that they had been removed from the list because they are no longer staying at the shelter or in their car. It was a long night for the family because they had been in the top 20 and thought that by now they would be connecting with housing. No one told them their name had come off the list. No one helped them look for other resources."
May 9, 2018
By Kylee Fuhr, District Homeless Liaison, St. Lucie Public Schools, Florida. “I was astonished to learn that we had 106 McKinney-Vento seniors registered, but we had never arranged a tour of our local institute of higher education, Indian River State College. I knew I had to figure out a way to get these students interested in college and aware of the benefits of pursuing their undergraduate education…”
Apr 20, 2018
By Leslie Camden Goold, MSW, School Social Worker/McKinney-Vento Homeless Liaison, Central Valley School District, Washington. This June, I am stepping outside my comfort zone to honor the unknown challenges that these students face every summer and raise awareness about homelessness. I am going to hike a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail to acknowledge the daily struggles these students are facing without the safety net of school. I will publicize my journey in the local media, and invite those moved to help to contribute to my McKinney-Vento program.
Apr 4, 2018
By Beth McCullough, Homeless Education Liaison, Adrian Public Schools, MI. He had been in 5 different high schools in 2 years. He missed his whole freshman year because of homeschooling that resulted in no credit. His chance of graduating on time? “About 2%,” someone said in a meeting.
Feb 28, 2018
By Susan Piazza, Assistant Director, Title I and School Support Team, WI Department of Public Instruction. “I recently had the honor of introducing a session at the National Title I Conference, hosted by the National Title I Association in Philadelphia, PA. The session was titled, ‘Voices of Youth: Education, Homelessness, Hope.’ As I sat there listening, I was once again reminded of the truth behind the impact that school, district, and state level systems can have on the future of a child or youth experiencing homelessness.”
Jan 16, 2018
By Cynthia A. Núñez MSW, McKinney-Vento Liaison, Lewiston, ID. "One night last fall, I lay awake, replaying a conversation I had had with a fellow social worker regarding homelessness in our community. I recalled his words about “the overall lack of concern for a population that many choose to ignore” and I contemplated what could I do to make a difference."
Dec 18, 2017
I sat down with a young man I have worked with since he was in middle school. He is now 17 years old. He was homeless with his mother, and he is now homeless as an unaccompanied youth. “Well Jay, it’s that time of the year. What would you like for Christmas?” I asked.
To Create Change, We Must Change: Exploring the Disconnect Between Homelessness and Educational Success
Nov 29, 2017
By Deidra Thomas-Murray, Homeless Liaison, Saint Louis Public Schools. Teachers arrive at work prepared to teach students who may seem to be prepared to learn. But how prepared can students be when they are living under stressful housing conditions? I ask, “How likely are teachers to understand,” because there was a time in my career that I did not “get it.”
Nov 1, 2017
In this SchoolHouse Connection Guest Perspective, Barb Dexter, McKinney-Vento liaison for the Anchorage School District, shares powerful examples of the policies and practices that her school district uses to implement the McKinney-Vento Act, re-engage students who have left school, and help them obtain a key to their future: a high school degree.
Oct 9, 2017
“I want to stress the importance of the Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act (HEASHFY). I, myself was an unaccompanied homeless youth throughout high school and college and I know first-hand how homelessness can affect access to higher education. I have created a list of reasons why HEASHFY is important to me and why it will be instrumental in the lives of students experiencing homelessness.”
Sep 18, 2017
By Marta Martinez, McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Liaison, Northside ISD, Texas. "As the enrollment of students identified as being impacted by Hurricane Harvey increased, so did my concerns about how their needs would be met as they enrolled at campuses throughout our large district."
Aug 28, 2017
By Jonathan Houston, Equal Opportunity Schools, former Tukwila School District, WA liaison. “‘This was not supposed to happen to me.’ That was the first thought that went through my mind during my first year as a McKinney-Vento liaison. I finally had a decent job and had begun to progress toward my professional career in providing equity. I was the guy who was supposed to help everybody else…but homelessness was not supposed to happen to me.”
Aug 4, 2017
By Jordyn Roark, BSW candidate, University of North Carolina at Pembroke. "You walk into an office and are asked for your name and address. You reply that you don’t have an address. The secretary looks confused and says, 'You must have an address. Where do you sleep?' You cringe and restate that you do not have an address. The secretary fumbles through some papers, lets out a strained breath, and finally looks up to state: 'We need an address in order to move forward.'”
Jun 27, 2017
By Dakota Chronis, Student, North Seattle Community College. Early in life I struggled significantly with schooling because there were many basic needs that I never had met. I lived in unsafe environments due to financial instability. The constant threat of being harmed or becoming sick was scary because I didn’t have access to medical care. My untreated chronic health issues prevented me from focusing on schooling.
Jun 20, 2017
"The issue of homelessness is often an invisible burden outshined by images of tattered clothes and messages written on cardboard. The true face of homelessness is so much broader than that. We will truly elicit change when we are able to help our community and those in power see those faces." We present a very special guest perspective. Two SHC Young Leaders - student and peer mentor - share their thoughts and feelings about speaking truth to power in Washington, DC.
Jun 6, 2017
For years before I lost my housing, I was trapped with a parent in a home that was unsafe and unsuitable for living. I spent three years parenting my own child as a minor, aware that if I were to reach out for housing supports or express fear for my safety, I could be forcibly separated from my daughter and we could both end up worse off.
May 22, 2017
By Lisa Berglund, Masters in Public Policy, University of Maryland. When I met Trevon* at the therapeutic nursery at his family’s shelter in Baltimore, his teacher gave me a warning. “Be careful about getting close to him,” she said. “He gets scared around strangers.” This little boy, not yet two years old, had already been through significant trauma in his short life, which made him wary of his surroundings.
May 6, 2017
By Nakita Scott, School Social Worker, Polk County, Florida. During the first few months of working with the HEARTH Project, I wasn’t aware of the vast needs of unaccompanied homeless youth. Then I encountered a young lady who asked me a simple question: “What is the difference between a debit card and a credit card, and how do I balance my checkbook?” It was then that I realized these youth were on their own, without basic skills to take care of themselves.
Apr 22, 2017
By Lizzy Shoben, AA, Social Welfare, Central College of Florida. I didn’t know what to expect the first time I stepped foot in a college financial aid office, I assumed it would be the easiest part of college. Ha, joke was on me. Who knew I would be bawling in front of a stranger, telling them about one of my most humiliating and heartbreaking experiences of my life?
Mar 24, 2017
By Anne Giordano, Early Childhood Consultant, Litchfield, CT. What is it like to be tiny, and homeless? What might it be like to be pregnant and homeless? And what are the short and long term consequences?
Mar 7, 2017
Back when I was in high school, my brother and I went to see our high school counselor to express our desire to attend college. Right away she expressed her concerns that college might not be the best choice for us. She recommended we set our sights a little lower.
Mar 1, 2017
By Roxana Parise, Homeless Liaison, Bellingham Public Schools, WA. I was 11 years old the first time I witnessed an immigration raid. My family was living in central California and we were working in the fields picking blackberries. For a long time, I had nightmares that I was going to be taken away from my family, never to see them again...Today, as a homeless liaison, I work with many families who have at least one undocumented member in their family.
Feb 20, 2017
By Anthony Kibble, McKinney-Vento State Coordinator, Oklahoma. During my career, I have had the opportunity to focus my efforts on strengthening the Oklahoma child serving system from both a direct practice and administrative level. This experience has supported me greatly in the administrative work that is often focused on compliance, grant administration, policy, statutes, and laws.
Feb 7, 2017
By Ellen McLaughlin, Homeless Liaison, Sarasota, FL. To say that Alex, age 17, was overwhelmed when she gave birth this past spring would have been an understatement. She had dropped out of high school and was on her own and homeless. Having access to prioritized child care changed everything for them, because it meant that both Alex and her son could move forward together.
Feb 3, 2017
By Beth McCullough, Homeless Education Liaison, Adrian Public Schools, MI. The police were called. There was violence. Parents went to jail. It was one of the worst days of her life. When all was said and done, she landed with a friend and needs to pay rent. “I have to quit school and get a job,” she said.
Jan 25, 2017
By Irene Sauceda, BSW, MSW Candidate, Texas State University. I walked into the counselor’s office, a place I sought out to check the status of my GPA, but this time I was called in. Curiosity raving in my heart, I walked to the back office of the counselor for the senior class. "What could a senior counselor want with me if I’m only a junior?," I asked myself.
Jan 21, 2017
By Beth McCullough, homeless liaison, Adrian Public Schools. I have a fish tank in my office. Right now it has only two fish. It could use one more. When students come into my office they want to feed them and I let them. Preschool students to high school students like to gaze at them.
Dec 17, 2016
By Beth McCullough, McKinney-Vento Homeless Liaison, Adrian Public Schools, MI. They had lived in five different places within six months. Their path included staying with friends, two shelters and a motel. When all of their resources were spent, I put them in a motel for a week with no idea of where they were going to go after that.