by Sarah Goldman
School is out and summer is here. Kids all around Alabama are enjoying the sun, long days, and not having the stress of homework and upcoming projects. Summer for most kids is a celebration of all the hard work they did during the school year, but unfortunately for families experiencing homelessness it’s a transition from the one constant they had in their lives. When summer comes around, children living in families experiencing homelessness no longer have their daily routine of going to school or the stability of having that constant part of their life. Beyond that children in these situations are losing the important math, reading, science, and literary skills they obtained during the school year.
According to a study done in 2014 using data from One Roof, during the summer months and holidays, there are more families in the Birmingham area staying in homeless shelters than during the school year. This has become even more evident over the past few years. This trend is important to consider because when homeless families need a home the most, they are having to come to homeless shelters. During the school year homeless families will occasionally have the opportunity to stay with family and friends while the kids are in school. Unfortunately, when school is over or holidays come around families experiencing homelessness can no longer stay with friends and family, because the person taking them in might not want to have children around their house all day. So what are some efforts that people are doing around the nation to help curb this loss of knowledge and routine? Uncensored magazine, a magazine that talks about American families experiencing poverty and homelessness, discusses this issue in their summer 2015 edition.
In the Uncensored magazine article, Summertime Not a Break for Homeless Families by Lauren Bludin, the article talks about how families around the country are dealing with homelessness during the summer. This article touches on kindergarteners to college students dealing with homelessness during the summer. For example, homeless children might end up staying in a shelter all day with nothing to keep them or their minds occupied, which causes them to lose important lessons they learned in school. Whereas, other children attend camps to retain their schooling causing kids experiencing homelessness who are already behind, to fall further behind because of their lack of funds.
One agency mentioned in the article that is working to bridge this gap is Faces without Places, a nonprofit organization based in Cincinnati, Ohio that has for the past 18 years put on The Yellow Bus Summer Camp. This is a free camp that transports homeless children from ages 5 to 12 from shelters to different places where they can learn, have fun, and get their minds off of the homelessness they are experiencing. Not only is the camp free, but they provide a free breakfast, lunch, swimsuit, towel, and shoes for each camper. The eight week camp’s main focus is to develop the children’s literacy and math skills, but kids are also taken on field trips, play sports, and swim. The summer camp hires real teachers in order to give the kids the best learning experience possible. This is reflected in a 2014 analysis that showed that 95 percent of the campers retained or increased their math and literacy skills.
This article is eye opening because during the summer we forget what others who are less fortunate are experiencing. It is important that we recognize what men, women, and especially children are experiencing during this time of vacations and celebrating. For them, it is a time of stress and finding ways to keep their families and themselves in a safe and stable place. Although we don’t have programs like The Yellow Bus Summer Camp here in Alabama, places such as Pathways (205) 322-6854 offer services such as the Day Center which offers basic needs for homeless women and children. (look up other day programs or special summer programs for disadvantaged children)
Again, during this summer season remember the families that are experiencing homelessness and the struggles that they face. Additionally, volunteering, donating, and spreading the word about these issues are encouraged as well.
Sarah Goldman is a student at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. She spent several weeks during the summer volunteering with One Roof.