RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – The Russellville School District is working to address the issue of more than 50 homeless students but fixing the problem is going to take a team effort.
The district’s Assistant to the Superintendent for Student Support Services Dr. Brittany Turner says they have a grant that is funding their homeless assistance program. Thanks to the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which helps K-12 students who are suffering homelessness.
“Today there are 59 students in the program.” Turner goes on to say the students in the program situation could be, “they doubled up with another family, not by choice but by financial or economic reasons or they may be in a motel or shelter or transitional living campgrounds, living in cars.”
Turner says they had the grant for 17 years and renewed it every three years to keep supporting their struggling students. She adds with its funding they’re able to place students in motels and shelters. However, she is not sure why The number of homeless students goes up and down.
“Students come to us with a lot of baggage,” said Turner.
However, the district is seeking to alleviate its burden.
“So that maybe some clothing to go to school, it may be school supplies, it may be access to extracurricular activity,” said Turner.
Turner says the program ends for students after they graduate but they do have options.
“We usually work with the Department of Human Services or local organizations to have something for them when they leave, help set them on food stamps or other assistance programs.
Turner says although the grant has limitations, they lean on the local organizations they’re partnered with.
“We may have limits on how many days we can purchase a hotel room for example so that may be where we call a respite center and say we’re at our limit lets help partner with those community members,” said Turner.
“One of their partners is River Valley Food For Kids, the Executive Director Josh Dunbar says they provide backpacks filled with food for kids on the weekends since the district takes care of them through the week,” said Dunbar.
Dunbar says every year the nonprofit says they’re helping more and more students.
“Today, we are constantly feeding kids right now with the Russellville school district alone. We are heading out over 550 backpacks a week to children,” said Dunbar.
Turner says if members in the community would like to help. They can donate to one of their local nonprofits.
To donate on the rivervalleyfood4kids.org or call 479-223-1544.