EDITORIAL: Homeless kids need our schools

An eye-opening report at a recent school board meeting stated that there are a couple of hundred homeless children attending public schools on Whidbey Island.

The breakdown lists 50 such students known to attend Oak Harbor schools, 20 in Coupeville and some 74 on South Whidbey. The effort to identify homeless students continues, so Oak Harbor could top 100 by the end of the year.

School officials use a succinct definition of homeless: “Those who lack a fixed, night time residence.” Such children may be living in automobiles, motels, state parks or other temporary situations or they may be sharing housing with others. In short, they have no place to call home.

In a homeless situation, the public schools are the most stable part of a child’s life. Schools are warm, dry, clean, there are free lunches available, and supportive adults to refer children and their families to assistance available elsewhere in the community.

It’s a good thing that homeless liaisons can be found in the island’s schools, whose speciality it is to identify and work with kids without homes. Although the community has a shortage of low income housing, it does have other resources such as food, clothing and medical assistance. Kids need to find out about these in schools, or they will go without.

The homeless student problem points out that in today’s society, schools have to do a lot more than just educate kids. First they have to make sure they have the basics to sustain a decent life, otherwise there is no way they can be educated.

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