The problem of youth homelessnes is greater than you know

Each year the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign against Hunger and Homelessness set aside the week prior to Thanksgiving to sponsor the National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week. Last year during this week, more than 750 high schools, colleges, communities group and faith-based organizations from cities across the United States came together to bring awareness to the issues of hunger and homelessness.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2010 annual report to Congress, each night there are approximately 770,000 people in the United States who are homeless. The U.S. Department of Education reports that there are an additional 700,000 children without a place to call home and who go to bed hungry nightly.

In 2010, Grays Harbor school districts reported a total of 714 students as homeless, as defined by the education portion of the McKinney-Vento Act. (Aberdeen 356, Elma 67, Hoquiam 69, Lake Quinault 42, McCleary 14, North Beach 34, Oakville 1, Ocosta 71, Mary M knight 5, Montesano 15, Taholah 40)

Many of these students struggle in school because of the stress that accompanies not knowing where they will stay each night, inability to do homework and because the trauma they’re experiencing reduces their ability to remember. Students begin to perform below grade level, lose confidence in their academic abilities and then disconnect socially and emotionally from education systems.

One group, the Homeless Youth Education Fund (HYEF) of Grays Harbor, aims to connect homeless students, between the ages of 12-21, with existing services or provide them with what they need when services in the community do not exist. HYEF connects with students by providing grant applications to school district’s homeless liaison (district’s are mandated by the McKinney-Vento Act to have a homeless liaison), coaches, community members and faith-based organizations. Grant applications are completed by the student with the help of a supporting adult, and then submitted to HYEF for approval.

In the past 12 months HYEF has supported in the following ways:

• Rental support for a teen parent — the amount of rental support provided was proportionate to the amount of school work produced

• Sports Camps

• Yearbooks

• ASB cards

• In cooperation with the Aberdeen Lions Club, a bicycle outfitted with a rack and basket, a lock and helmet

• Sports shoes

• Senior pictures

If you are interested in learning more about HYEF or would like to assist a student in accessing support through HYEF please contact us at: Homelessyouthgh@gmailcom

Heather Lawhead works as a liaison between the Aberdeen School District and students and families that are homeless. She can be reached at