Danville School System Seeks Grant For Homeless Student Assistance Program

Danville, VA - On any given day, more than a hundred people in Danville have no place to live.

Regional statistics show many are children, but Danville Public Schools are finding new ways to identify homeless students in order to help them be successful through the McKinney Vento Educational Program.

After changing their method for identifying homeless students this past year, the school system went from identifying 2 students to 57 students.

School social worker Wesson Claiborne-Felder is at the forefront of the movement to provide assistance for homeless students and their families.

"We help them find agencies to help pay utilities, rent assistance, we take them to God's Storehouse to get food... a lot of parents don't realize those services are available because they don't open up to the schools, " she said.

The program uses a simplequestionnairee for students that is less invasive than other identifying methods.

School leaders hope to decrease truancy rates for homeless students and keep them enrolled at their school of origin - by offering transportation or mileage reimbursement for those who have transitioned to a surrounding county.

"I think there is more homeless in Danville than people recognize, "

Housing Authority Director Gary Wasson says homelessness has been at a steady rate for the last few years, and the homeless shelter alone can't solve every issue these families face.

"There are people that need help. I think by investigating and finding the numbers, maybe we can coordinate the services a lot better, " Wasson said.

Thursday night the school board approved an application - proposed by Claiborne-Felder - for a $210,000 federal grant. She hopes to use that funding to provide more assistance for homeless students at the elementary level that need help the most.

"To be able to come home and implement the program that I have seen work miracles in other states and other counties, it is an awesome feeling."