MIDLAND, Texas (Nexstar)- The Midland ISD Family Support Center has been reaching out to the district’s homeless student population, sharing food and hygiene boxes, as well as encouragement, during the summer break.
Every six weeks, liaisons from the Family Support Center reach out to homeless students using any information they have about a student’s last whereabouts. Recently, the center connected with 19 students and so far, has conducted more than 50 unique visits.
It’s an effort driven by a desire to make sure students not only have meals and other critical supplies, but also to encourage them to stay in school.
“School stability can decrease mobility, and school is often the one thing in their lives that’s stable,” said Jill McCall, Executive Director of Student Services.
McCall and other support liaisons especially seek students with a record of truancy. Homeless students have a high dropout rate, and truant students have a high risk of not graduating.
“Graduation is something we help these students grab onto and work toward,” McCall said.
“The kids are glad to see us,” said Chalace Phillips, Family Support Specialist and liaison. “We improve their quality of life a little bit, and it’s the little things that have big impacts.”
Family Support Specialist and liaison Theresa Barrera noted that students have received books as part of their supplies. “Every single child was thrilled,” she said.
Homeless children are identified in a number of ways:
- They lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.
- They might share housing with others because of loss of housing, economic hardship or a similar reason.
- They might live in motels, hotels, trailer parks or campgrounds because of a lack of alternative adequate accommodations.
- They might live in emergency or transitional shelters.
- They might have been abandoned in a hospital.
- Their primary nighttime residence might be a public or private place that is not designated for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.
- They might live in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings.
- They might be migratory children.
MISD currently has about 270 students enrolled who are identified as homeless and more than 350 who are inactive but at some point during the school were identified as homeless.
The Family Support Center’s homeless student outreach has not gone unnoticed. The Texas Education Agency recently recognized and commended the center’s efforts during a monthly meeting.
For the center’s two-person specialist team, aiding students and families isn’t a job.
“It’s a passion,” Phillips said. “It’s worth it to help one person, but it’s so cool to be able to help so many.”
Currently, the center serves about 80 families regularly.
“We don’t know their stories, and we don’t judge,” Barrera said. “We’re focused on their here-and-now issues.” Seeing families in difficult life situations can be trying, but “doing this makes my heart grow,” she said.
In addition to their outreach program, The Family Support center also hosts walk-in hours 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. every Thursday at the District Service Center, 615 W. Missouri Ave.
If you or someone you know needs assistance, you can contact the Family Support Center at 432-240-1520.