How schools can help homeless students
- Establish a true welcome to the school. Introduce the family and child to teachers and other staff and give a tour of the school. Set the tone for further parent involvement. Answer questions and give the “personal touch.”
- Be consistent in your own behaviors. Children from unstable homes see inconsistency on a continual basis. The classroom should be a place where the child can be certain that the rules are not changed arbitrarily and that the teacher keeps his or her word.
- Model appropriate behavior. Children watch very closely to see how a teacher reacts to a stressful situation or to frustration.
- Keep in mind that the parents of these children may not be able to make treats for their child’s birthday. Look for alternative ways to provide goodies for birthday parties.
- Arrange assignments so that homeless children can keep up with their peers without having to take things home. Keep work in the classroom that would otherwise have been sent home.
- Reduce stress in the classroom. Children who live with daily stress at home need a quiet, controlled atmosphere at school.
- Have an up-to-date list of local shelters, counseling programs and outreach programs that you can provide to the parent if requested. Make yourself available to them.
- Know the community resources so you are in position to make referrals for the family in areas such as housing, transportation and counseling.
- Establish positive communication with families.
- Make the parents feel welcome when they enter the school office. Assist in filling out forms. Be sensitive that some of the parents may lack reading and writing skills. Don’t bring any special attention to their situation.
- Send the school newsletter to the local shelters. Make information about school programs, such as breakfast and lunch programs, available to each shelter.
- Help with bus schedules. This may include setting up bus stops to pick up kids at the shelter first and drop them off last to ease the embarrassment of living at a shelter.
If you know or suspect that a student is homeless and would like more information on how your school can help, contact Laura McDowell, Homelesss Student Assistance Coordinator, (810) 364-8990 ext. 4022.