Schools support homeless students

  • Photo courtesy of Asaka Herman Boys AND Girls Club of Hawaii provides valuable youth programs and a safe place for Kauai students to call home. From left are Akira Balbubar, Nainoa Hirokane and JJ Deguchi.

LIHUE — The number of homeless students has decreased statewide.

Over 3,000 students in Hawaii were estimated as homeless at the beginning of the 2017 school year, down by about 500 since last counted in May, according to data from the Department of Education.

The amount of homeless students on Kauai is estimated at 180 kids. Six percent of the state’s homeless students attend Kapaa, Kauai and Waimea schools, according to the recent analysis.

“Schools are working diligently in making sure we know who these students are, enroll them in school, remove any barriers for them so they can participate in a rigorous and well-rounded educational experience, and work with community agencies in support of the students and families,” said Kauai Complex Area Superintendent William Arakaki.

About 2,000 of the students statewide were living with extended family without a permanent place to stay, while the remaining 1,000 were living on the street or in shelters, according to the data. However numbers may be slightly higher, since preschoolers were not accounted for in the data.

“We are committed in providing our homeless student population the educational opportunities to learn and grow to their fullest potential and to attain their dreams and aspirations,” Arakaki said.

The Department of Education employs 18 liaisons to enroll homeless students and connect families with services. Officials are seeking to hire community intermediaries to work in neighborhoods with the largest number of homeless students.

“Also, with the upcoming addition of a full-time Community Homeless Concerns Liaison, we’re able to expand our supports around the children and their families,” Arakaki said.

Few programs provide direct homeless services on island, like Kauai Economic Opportunity’s Komohana Group Home and Manaolana for emergencies with transitional families.

One private, nonprofit incorporated in 1975, Hale Opio Kauai, continues to offer youth support to enhance a sense of belonging and strengthen families, in addition to offering emergency shelter services.

“We believe that ensuring our mentoring programs and club experiences are accessible to all young people is the first step in changing their lives for the better,” said Tina Albao, Kauai director of operations and development for Boys &Girls Club of Hawaii.

After-school programs provide places for children to go after class, including Boys &Girls Club, A+ Program, Afterschool Alliance, YMCA and other nonprofit organizations.

“By opening our doors to youth and outreaching to their families, we are building strong relationships that will benefit the community,” Albao said. “Boys &Girls Clubs provide a ‘home’ to all kids and gives them a place to belong.”

These multiple levels of support are helping some houseless families transition into permanent living situations, but progress remains slow.

“We understand clearly that breaking the cycle of poverty and homelessness will be accomplished through comprehensive partnerships and programs throughout the state,” Albao said.

Limited funds are available through State Homeless Emergency Grants Program and Housing Placement Program for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, in addition to other outreach and assistance programs.

Some schools have been able to provide homeless students with clothes, food and showers. ​

Donations for homeless​​ keiki help provide footwear and classroom supplies, such as backpacks, notebooks and pens.

Call 866-927-7095 to make a donation.​

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