Giving hope to some of its most vulnerable students, Kansas City Public Schools has designated a place to provide students who are homeless with the things they need to live.
It’s called the Office of Students in Transition, located at the Manual Career & Technical Center.
“There are no typical days here,” case manager, Ramona Murray said. “We have a variety of students and parents to receive services for some unforeseen circumstances that have happened.”
Through the McKinney-Vento Act, this office serves as a liaison for KCPS students and their families dealing with homelessness, making sure they get the tools they need for an education.
“The goal really is to remove all barriers so children can enter school and so that's what we do,” KCPS liaison, Melissa Douglas said. “We're constantly enrolling and advocating for them and one of the biggest things we do is provide transportation, both in-district and out of district transportation.”
Douglas says there’s a homeless liaison designated in every school district throughout the metro area.
“We work together on a regular basis so that we can remove any barriers so that students can enter school even if they don't have the necessary documentation that traditional students would need, like proof of residency, shot records those things,” Douglas said.
Roughly 15,500 students are in the KCPS district; eight to 10 percent are homeless.
“Last year, we reported over 1,500 students, 1,700 students. Right now, we're tracking over 1,300 students at this time,” Douglas said. “Homelessness is not what you see on the street. It's not that panhandler, it's not that person that has the sign.”
Douglas says there are a lot of situations where students are displaced.
“They're exiled from families, students and their families have been displaced through too regular disasters of house fires, you know chronic homelessness, or even just poor decisions and job loss,” she said.
These are situations case managers, like Rhonda Gay and Ramona Murray, see on a daily basis.
“We had a family that came in once and they were telling us they were living in a tent,” Murray said. “We have a lot of families that are living in their cars as well.”
“We have students that come in that haven't eaten breakfast, or lunch or whatever, so we're able to let them come and sit at our table and able to feed them that's going to be nurturing for their bodies,” Gay said. “I have 19 schools, so we're constantly putting out small fires daily, just doing referrals, sometimes just deescalating certain situations due to the frustration of homeless and not having a steady environment to be in. So it is on the go daily.”
"We're cut from a very special cloth cause it is not easy to hear those stories day in and day out," Murray said. "So we just come in and do what we can."
The office is currently looking for donations, such as bus passes, money and nonperishable items, giving students immediate access to what they need.
“So that they're able to move forward and say hey you know what I can succeed, just breathing hope,” Douglas said. “Again, that's what we do. We're going to hope.”
The office asks donations to be new.
If you are interested in donating to this department, you can do so through the Educational Foundation: http://www.catalystkcps.org
For more information, click here.