IMAGINE FOR A moment the plight of the more than 400 school-aged homeless children in the District. They are adrift, pulled from their schools each time the family is moved to another shelter. Such children often miss as many as two or three days of class each week. Even with discounted bus tokens, some homeless parents have found that they cannot afford the costs of getting their children to school. Some of these children are so fearful of being ridiculed by their classmates that they refuse to attend classes. And it can be very difficult to study at night when one's home is a crowded hotel room, a place without access to books of any kind.
The D.C. Board of Education has now acquiesced to a request from advocates for the homeless and will provide buses to transport these kids to and from school. The city's schools have devised an approach that will involve some extra tutoring. But the school system, parent-teacher associations, volunteers, businesses, churches and government agencies can do considerably more at little additional cost.
Several D.C. schools have been "adopted" by various government agencies, businesses and the like. Why not do the same for a homeless child, a family shelter or a school with several homeless students? School-based staff could be assigned as surrogate parents to monitor a child's studies and attitude. Mentors and parents, civic associations, congregations and community groups could join in, offering a homeless child books and other reference materials or a quiet place in which to study. School system officials can indeed help these children get to and from school, even if it comes down to someone picking up students in the morning on the way to work.
Homeless children are among those least likely to succeed in school. But much can be donefor them if more fortunate citizens are willingto share some measure of time, interest and energy.