On Wednesday, October 14, SchoolHouse Connection hosted a Congressional briefing titled “Educating Homeless Children and Youth During COVID-19”. The briefing included several panelists, including Congressmen Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Don Bacon (R-NE). The bipartisan Congressional briefing also featured four local educational agency homeless liaisons experts, John Bright from Omaha Public Schools in Nebraska, Ayesha Buckner from New Orleans Public Schools in Louisiana, Antonio Lewis from Highline Public Schools in Washington, and Dr. Donna Smith from Monterey County Office of Education in California.
Congressman Panetta discussed the perspective that homelessness is a multifaceted national issue and how there has been a dramatic rise of students meeting the definition of homelessness in Monterey County. The large increase was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which raises concerns about youth and children’s well-being facing homelessness. Congressman Panetta also discussed the need for more direct funding for homelessness and more affordable housing, which is being addressed in the Emergency Family Stabilization Act (H.R. 7950, S. 3923). Rep. Bacon, the foster care caucus’ co-chair, discussed the progress made prior to the pandemic. Due to COVID-19, unemployment tripled within one month, and the closing of schools put additional stress on families already facing unfavorable circumstances. Representative Bacon is a cosponsor of H.R. 7950 and H.R. 7947, both of which provide emergency relief and assistance for children and youth.
The homeless liaisons experts are charged under federal law to identify children and youth experiencing homelessness and ensure their enrollment and support. Panelists discussed the struggles and strategies of educators in identifying and supporting homeless students and families, and their urgent needs – including funding for the McKinney-Vento Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth program. Each of the panelists discussed how the students they serve are affected by homelessness. Many students rely on school as a place of stability, and schools’ closing has impacted those children. Families have also struggled with housing due to not being able to “double-up” because of coronavirus precautions. Other issues discussed by the panel were food insecurity, difficulty in contacting families, lack of technology, and the use
of funds for children and youth facing homelessness.
CWLA endorsed the Emergency Family Stabilization Act (HR. 7950/S 3923) to ensure that prolonged child and youth homelessness does not continue during the pandemic.
We urge you to take action and contact your Members of
Congress to take action. Click here to take action now.