Magazine article District Administration

Districts Expand Services for Homeless Students

Magazine article District Administration

Districts Expand Services for Homeless Students

Article excerpt

Dallas ISD's morning drop-in centers for homeless high school students provide necessities such as take-home food, hygiene products and a place to wash clothes. The programs managers say they also strive to offer an equally important, if less tangible, resource: trust.

Homeless teens rarely tell anyone about their predicament because they're afraid of "a multitude of things," such as being turned over to foster care or reported to the police, says Mark Pierce, manager of the drop-in program. Some gay and transgender students don't want anyone to know they have been thrown out of their homes because of their lifestyles, he adds.

Establishing trust with these teens is one of the key reasons the district says it is essential for the centers to operate at high schools, rather than at other community organizations.

"You have to come a long way to gain that trust and if anybody is going to gain that trust, it should be the school system," Pierce says. "If you can establish trust you can get them to continue and to graduate from high school. You can bring in counselors to help them resolve their situations."

Eliminating obstacles

Students can visit the centers--which have opened at 24 Dallas ISD high schools since 2012--before school from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. The rooms are staffed by a community liaison. Pierce also brings in volunteer mentors and speakers who tell students about housing programs and other community services. Students can see the liaison any time during the week if they need food, hygiene products, clothing or other supplies. …

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