Number of homeless students expected to grow

Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 6:28 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - In just a few days, the first bell will ring for Roanoke City Public Schools students. But the work for Malora Horn, head of the department that helps students experiencing homelessness, hasn’t stopped.

“Our main role is to make sure the students are afforded their educational rights as stated by the federal law, which means they’re allowed to attend the same school prior to losing housing,” said Horn.

She says last school year, 590 students in Roanoke needed those services.

“So, for example, they’ve been evicted, there’s been a house fire. It could be as a result of domestic violence,” added Horn. “There could’ve been a job loss and maybe a parent didn’t lose; they haven’t been evicted yet.”

73 students were considered unaccompanied last year. This means they’re living with people other than their legal guardians. RCPS tries to give students stability by offering resources such as transportation to attend school.

“We have some, you know, students who move six or seven times in a school year and that’s a lot.,” explained Horn. “You know it’s a lot to go through that once, but some of our students go through that on a regular basis.”

Horn worries the pandemic and housing crisis will increase the number of homeless students.

“I hope I am wrong and at the same time we want to make sure we’re helping those who need our help,” said Horn. “It wouldn’t surprise me if we don’t hit a historical number that we’ve never had before.”

Faith-based non-profit Straight Street Ministry partners with multiple hometown school systems.

“When they open up their supply closet looking for things that they need, our job is to make sure that the covers are full,” said Director Keith Farmer.

The ministry also provides training for at-risk youth and weekly meals. They work with local churches to collect supplies.

“Hygiene kits, air mattresses, sheet sets, things like that that they might need throughout the school year,” explained Farmer. “Things that we just take for granted.”

The school system has a Help the Homeless Fund to buy things families need.

“You provide them canned foods, but they don’t have a can opener,” added Horn. “I mean it’s all kinds of things that we try to think of.”

In case you would like to help, the school is always in need of food donations. Click here for more information.

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