Grants help Cy–Fair ISD provide quality education
Nearly every year, Cy–Fair ISD has seen an increase in the number of enrolled homeless students as the result of a rising number of foreclosures in the area and a struggling economy, according to the district’s homeless outreach department.
CFISD served more than 2,000 homeless students last year through a $203,800 annual grant from the Texas Support for Homeless Education Program, which provides qualified students breakfast and lunch, school supplies, uniforms, tutoring and graduation caps and gowns—all at no charge to the students.
A lack of affordable housing, poverty and situations of domestic violence often spur children living in homeless families, while unaccompanied youth face dangers of substance abuse and mental illness, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty.
“There isn’t a primary cause [for homelessness], but I can say historically the biggest reason is the lack of affordable housing and poverty,” said Barbara Duffield, policy director for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. “The numbers of homeless children climbed over 1 million in the 2010-11 school year, which is a 54 percent nationwide increase over the past four years.”
Although the definition of homelessness varies, CFISD considers homeless students’ living situation as a determining factor.
“Students living in a shelter are considered homeless,” said Dave Schrandt, homeless liaison for CFISD. “As are children who are ‘doubled up’—living with relatives or friends or sometimes in hotels and motels, usually following a move or foreclosure. Also, there are unaccompanied youths defined as students 17 years and older who are on their own—either kicked out by their parents or couch surfers—with no parent or guardian to oversee them.”
For extracurricular activities such as athletics, band and club organizations, the Parent Teacher Organization will often either pay for or waive costs associated with equipment, instruments and other fees, Schrandt said.
“From the district’s standpoint, we want to be sure to enroll [homeless students] right away,” he said. “Our district expedites the entire process. It is important that we treat them like everyone else. Also, we want to keep these kids at the same schools they have been attending. When you have to pick up and go, you take everything with you. [Students] need to stay somewhere they are comfortable—with their friends and in a familiar environment.”
CFISD works with nonprofit organizations and businesses to help homeless students succeed in the classroom by providing supplies, tutoring and funding.
Definition of a homeless child
- Individuals who lack a fixed, adequate nighttime residence
- Children or youth living in shared housing because of loss of housing or other economic hardship
- Children living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, shelters or awaiting foster care
- Children or youth with primary nighttime residence that is not designed for regular sleeping accommodations
- Children and youth living in cars, parks, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or other public places
This year’s grant:
TEXSHEP: (2006–2009, 2009–2012, 2012–2015) The Texas Support for Homeless Education program is a three year grant that funds the implementation of educational and support services for children in homeless situations. Money is distributed annually. The most recent grant will provide $203,800 per year from Sept. 1, 2012–Aug. 31, 2015.
Sources: Cy–Fair ISD, McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act