While the recession has hit many of us hard in California we must not forget those it is hitting hardest of all - the families, youth, and children experiencing homelessness.
A recent report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, The State of Homelessness in America, found that California's population of homeless people in families increased by five percent between 2009 and 2011. It is estimated that there are over three hundred thousand homeless children in California. http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/california-homeless-kids-family-homelessness-135702413.html
In every classroom in California there is a homeless student - Living in a shelter, motel, car, group foster home or doubled up sharing a house with family, friends or multiple families. These kids are the hidden population. They may have to move schools frequently or even miss days of school, as their family move from shelter to shelter, motel to motel or from family member to family member. They might even be sleeping in the family car, having to go to school without being able to shower or change. Every day there is uncertainty, every day their parents are struggling to meet their children's basic needs - Food and housing.
While as individuals we may not be able to end homelessness, there are ways communities and individuals can make a difference in the lives of these children today. They are homeless for many reasons, none of which they can control. But they have the power over one thing - their education.
School on Wheels is a non-profit organization that focuses on providing education assistance to homeless children. School on Wheels trains volunteers to become tutors and mentors for children living in shelters, group foster homes, motels, cars, and on the street. The tutors meet with their students on a weekly basis and help them to fill in the gaps and keep up with school work in the most difficult of circumstances.
When Megan Sholty of Santa Barbara, saw a School on Wheels post on Craigslist, she immediately answered the call to make a difference in the life of a homeless student. Her own experience with homelessness and the foster care system is what attracted Megan to join our team. Megan knows first-hand the daily challenges our students have to face but most importantly she understands how valuable education is in ensuring that our students break the cycle of homelessness.
Megan tells us, "While many things are out of my control, being educated isn't and pursuing an education has opened so many doors to a happy and prosperous future. I support School on Wheels for its mission to give students tools that can never be taken away from them."
Every year, School on Wheels distributes over 6,000 backpacks filled with school supplies throughout Southern California. Their goal in 2012 is to double the number of children that they serve.
Apply online to become a volunteer tutor and make a difference in the life of a homeless child in our community today - www.schoolonwheels.org