EDITORIAL: Homelessness

A currently popular movie’s spotlight on the story of a displaced adolescent, whose good fortune and athletic ability lead to a happy ending, also shines a light in the Tupelo and Lee County school districts whose homeless student situations range from unconventional to frighteningly unstable.
“The Blind Side,” a movie adaptation of the book of the same name by Michael Lewis, tells the story of Michael Oher, now a player for the Baltimore Ravens and a former All-SEC player at Ole Miss, and his adoption by an affluent family who took him off the streets of Memphis, out of gang life, and into a private school.
The Tupelo and Lee County school districts both count hundreds of students as “homeless” under federal definitions but which don’t necessarily mean, but certainly include, lacking a place to sleep every night.
Cynthia Colburn, coordinator of the program for homeless children in the Tupelo schools, said about some city-school students bounce from pillar-to-post on a daily basis. Others live in multi-family household situations, often of economic necessity, and others live in shelters, while some are members of single-mother households where the mother lives, as always, with her parents.
Tupelo has about 400 students and Lee County 300 students classified as homeless. The broad category includes children whose parents and siblings are doubled-up in residences, even if temporarily, with relatives and friends. The count also includes kids who live for a time in shelters like Alpha House for Boys, SAFE Inc., Gardner-Simmons Home for Girls, Faithhaven and Tupelo Children’s Mansion. Too, it includes children who don’t know from day-to-day where they will find shelter, food and care.
The county and city schools do everything authorized and funded to help kids in difficult living situations, but neither system provides shelter, and shouldn’t.
All the shelters housing students in Lee County and Tupelo spring from the private sector, although for most some government funding plays a part in the care of and services for the children under their roofs.
The role of volunteers and private-sector financial support can’t be overestimated.
Colburn said additional volunteers – adults who provide tutoring and support like clothing, prescriptions, eyeglasses and mentoring through programs of civic groups like the Lions Club, Kiwanis Club and the Family Resource Center – always are needed.
That said, homeless children don’t need a spotlight on them.
Homeless children need help, assistance, and reassurance, and most of the help provided needs to be low-profile, if not anonymous, for their sake.

NEMS Daily Journal

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