Organizations work together to ensure homeless children attend school

DUBUQUE – One hundred and seventeen. That’s the number of kids in the Dubuque Community School District who are homeless.

Lisa Manning is a homeless mother. She is staying at the Teresa Shelter, and he daughter and son attend the public schools in Dubuque.

Lisa says the schools look after her daughter and son closely.

She said, “They’re giving kids extra help in the school if they need it…I think it’s going pretty good though.”

Working with kids like Lisa’s is Shirley Horstman, the Director of Student Services with the Dubuque Community School District. She and her assistant Deb Schromen work hard to identify and assist homeless students.

Horstman explains, “We can provide backpacks to students that are homeless, we are under obligation to keep students in their school of origin. We also provide the free lunch for them, so they get the free breakfast and lunch and we waive school fees.”

Horstman and the school district are required to identify and enroll homeless kids into school by the McKinney Vento Act.

This act requires that school districts assign a homeless liaison to identify homeless students and ensure they have access to school services, like transportation.

Schromen says once she’s notified of a homeless student, she quickly gets resources lined up for them.

“Within less than 12 hours the child is hopefully set with transportation and a backpack,” she said.

However, getting their kids to school is just part of the battle for homeless parents. They must also focus on bettering themselves.

For many women, that’s where Opening Doors helps out.

Maria House Program Director Jessica Bleile said, “We’ve had women have multiple barriers um mental health, substance abuse, budgeting issues, transportation issues, no family support, no support network at all, it just kind of depends. Every person is different but we work on an individualized basis so we can focus on what that woman needs at the time.”

Opening Doors operates the Maria House, where women stay for two years. It also runs the Teresa Shelter, where Lisa and her daughter stay.

Heather Lugrain has gotten to know Lisa well over the years.

“We have been her main support for at least the last five years for her life and her children’s life. So she knows that when she doesnt have anywhere to go or anywhere safe for her children to be, she can come to our programs because she knows that we’re going to be there and help her out through that.”

With all the help and support she’s receiving, Lisa is confident that she can make it out of this situation.

“I’m gonna do this and we’re gonna get into our own place and the staff is helping, you know they help you to find to get job leads and help you with other things that you need so it’s a really good place if you need help.”

The Maria House and Teresa Shelter are always looking for donations to keep their facilities running. This list includes but is not limited to:

  • Toilet paper
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Laundry soap
  • Dryer sheets
  • Baby wipes
  • Liquid body wash
  • Postage stamps
  • Mason jars
  • Ziploc gallon bags

If you would like a full list of items needed at the Maria House and Teresa Shelter, or more information on donations in general, click here.

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