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Back to school—when you don’t have a home

07.17.18

Last summer, when Danielle tried to enroll her three children into school, it was a little like preparing for a long voyage: the documentation and registration forms, countless trips to the store for school supplies and, of course, vaccinations and physicals.

Even the most prepared of us can get tripped up by the process. “The school kept telling me I needed this or that and kept sending me away,” Danielle said. “I didn’t have a house or a car, so it was impossible.”

Danielle moved to Baltimore a year ago so her son could get surgery for a rare disease. “We had been living in Delaware, but doctors didn’t know how to help my son,” Danielle says. “They referred us here.” After the surgery, she was broke. It wasn’t long until she and her kids—ages 13, 6 and 5—were staying at a shelter.

By law, families experiencing homelessness can get assistance with expediting the registration process and can get help with transportation and school supplies. But most don’t know they can ask for help.

Kids experiencing homelessness miss a lot of school and are often too stressed to concentrate. They’re typically 3–6 months behind their classmates in learning. That’s why it’s so important for us to support them and their parents.

“Schools aren’t well equipped to identify homelessness,” Debbie Wilcox, LCSW-C, a social worker on our pediatrics and family medicine team explains. “I’ve met parents who don’t have proof of residency or the resources needed to get their kids in school, so they just give up.”

Danielle didn’t know where to go for help, who to contact or when to push back. Luckily, the shelter where Danielle was staying encouraged her to call Debbie. Together, they took it one step at a time.

“Trying to meet all the requirements was emotionally draining and very confusing,” Danielle says. “But then Debbie called, and the school started working with us. If I didn’t have Debbie, I don’t know what I would have done.”

Thanks to your support, Danielle’s little ones started school on time last year. And when the first day back comes around this August, Danielle is ready.

Find out you can get involved & help others during the hustle and bustle of the back to school season here


Want to hear more from Debbie and Danielle about the barriers families experiencing homelessness face during back-to-school season? You can listen to their interview with On The Record from WYPR now.

Listen here. 

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