Homeless grant awarded to 3 island school districts


Staff reporter

Recent efforts by the South Whidbey to help a local homeless family get back on their feet has led to a grassroots movement to establish emergency housing for homeless families.

When news of a homeless family living at the Island County Fairground was reported in The South Whidbey Record there were several offers of travel trailers, camping equipment and private property to camp on.

Nearly 30 different individuals and families visited the family at the fairgrounds with donations of food, clothing, money, housing and offers of jobs.

At least 40 calls offering help or sending donations to the family have come to the Family Resource Center.

“During the last week $450 has been donated to the Campbell family through the resource center and a $500 gift certificate to Payless was given anonymously on Monday,” Gail LaVassar, coordinator Family Resource Center.

With this tremendous outpouring from the community LaVassar hopes other families will be helped.

To further help with homelessness, the three Island school districts—South Whidbey, Coupeville and Oak Harbor — will share in a $40,000 McKinney-Vento grant to help increase attendance and academic success for homeless students. This is the second year the schools have had the grant. Only 14 were given state-wide. The grant is awarded based on having programs in place to help homeless students.

“I hope to use the energy created in the community for one family to help others here. The Southend does not have a shelter and very few low income apartments,” she said. “With the offer of several travel trailers and good camping equipment, I am hoping we can establish emergency housing for families living in their cars or in the woods.”

“We need to get people up off the ground. Living in tents is too far down to get back up, find jobs and enroll their kids to school.”

Once such offer came from Langley Middle School teacher, Susie Richards who offered to donate her travel trailer as a temporary home.

“In Island County, there are an average of 100 homeless students enrolled in school on any given day,” LaVassar said.

According to county data, 176 children under the age of 18 were sheltered last year; 122 were documented through the schools as being homeless; 47 were found service organizations and 114 were turned away from local shelters due to lack of space.

“About 75 percent of those students are duplicates, so we are estimating 375 homeless students in Island County.”

According to the National Association for Education of Homeless Children, the average homeless child changes schools five times in one year.

Some common problems associated with homeless students, LaVassar said include housing instability, frequent change of schools, loss of friends due to mobility and lack of transportation, lack of privacy and no place to study or be alone.

LaVassar believes emergency housing would help deal with these issues.

“I hope with the use of a travel trailer as an emergency home, a family could stay at the Island County Fairgrounds for 30 days.”

Nightly rental at the fairgrounds could be paid out of the schools’ grant funds, LaVassar said.

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