“DPS does a great job at providing services to both students and their families,” said Christine Pruitt, McKinney-Vento homeless liaison with DPS.
Probably every school in the district has a student experiencing homelessness, but some families are reluctant to share information about their living situations, Pruitt said.
Families are worried about child protective services getting involved and possibly taking their kids away, and they fear the stigma of being homeless, she said.
But the school district is only concerned with helping children and their families get the help that they need, school officials said.
The school district can help homeless students and their families with transportation, tutoring, enrollment, Pruitt said, and the district distributes hygiene products, clothing and school supplies.
The district also provides referrals for housing, shelter, food aid and medical services.
DPS offers after-school programming for students experiencing homelessness Monday through Thursday. Teachers are present to assist students with homework and other academic needs.
Homeless students include those staying at a shelter and those who are couch-surfing, doubled up with relatives or friends or staying at hotels or motels.
Students experiencing homelessness tend to have lower graduation rates and are more likely to struggle with attendance, said Melinda Clark, director of accountability and assessment with DPS.
“We’re here to help them get through it,” Clark said.
Kids are resilient, she said, and the district has had valedictorians and salutatorians who experienced homeless.
She also pointed out that data shows that the district’s homeless students are not frequently engaged in activities that lead to disciplinary actions.
“There’s a large percentage of our homeless students who go on to college and who are very successful,” she said.
DPS is asking the community for donations.
Needed items include washcloths, towels, hats and gloves for all ages, small alarm clocks and cash or gift cards for food or clothing.
Items can be donated at 354 Mound Street or DPS’ administrative offices at 136 S. Ludlow St. in downtown.
The district also needs volunteers to serve this “sometimes forgotten population,” Pruitt said.