November is Runaway and Homeless Youth Awareness Month

Monday, November 8, 2021 - 10:45am
Homeless Youth Awareness Month

Learn what we are doing and how you can help

Adams 12 Five Star Schools has 1,500+ students (over 4% of the total student population) who experience homelessness at some point during the school year and approximately 1,000 youth experiencing homelessness at any given time in the school year.

The Adams 12 Five Star Schools Board of Education voted unanimously to recognize November 2021 as Runaway and Homeless Youth Awareness Month at its Oct. 20 meeting. 

The proclamation recognizes the challenges that our youth experiencing homelessness face as well as the importance of connecting youth and families experiencing homelessness to educational services to ensure every young person has access to the supports that lead to a healthy and productive life. Read the full proclamation.

Read one parent's story of how their family overcame homelessness and found community in Adams 12 Five Star Schools.

What does it mean to be homeless in the educational world?

The McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act was the first significant federal legislative response to homelessness and was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on July 22, 1987. Specific provisions ensure the enrollment, accessibility, and educational stability for students lacking a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. This includes any displaced child or youth experiencing the following: is living in a shelter, motel, inadequate trailer, or house; is staying temporarily with relatives or friends due to economic hardship or loss of housing; is "couch-surfing"; and/or is living in any other homeless situation.

Adams 12 Five Star Schools has 1,500+ students (over 4% of the total student population) who experience homelessness at some point during the school year and approximately 1,000 youth experiencing homelessness at any given time in the school year. This number is not only growing but is also an underrepresentation of the actual number of students experiencing homelessness, as families often do not self-identify.

What is Adams 12 Five Star Schools doing to address youth homelessness?

Student and Family Outreach Program
The Five Star district has a model unique to the state of Colorado in which the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Liaisons also make up the Student and Family Outreach Program (SFOP). This amazing team consists of four Licensed Clinical Social Workers, two Community Resource Specialists, a Family Outreach Liaison, an Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Advocate, an Adams County Human Services Community Support Specialist, and a Program Assistant. Together they work to remove barriers that keep students from being engaged and thriving in school so that all students and families will have the resources and supports they need in order to engage and succeed. SFOP, among many other things:

  • Connects students and families with community resources to access food, housing, clothing, mental health resources, medical and dental care, and legal services
  • Does outreach and enrollment for Medicaid, CHP+, and other public benefits
  • Ensures that youth who are experiencing homelessness and youth who are involved in the child welfare system receive the appropriate educational services, including school access, stability, and continuity; support for academic and social-emotional success; and freedom from segregation or stigmatization

Single Points of Contact in Schools
In addition to support at the district level, middle and high school students who are experiencing homelessness have access to Single Points of Contact (SPOCs) directly within their schools. These staff members ensure that students who are experiencing homelessness have the supplies and basic resources (food, school supplies, clothing, hygiene items) they needs to access their learning as well as reduced barriers to attendance.

SPOCs also check in with these students regularly to see how they are doing academically and socially, ensure that they or their families are connected with SFOP if they need access to medical and dental care, assess their needs for holiday assistance, ensure that they have equitable access to extracurricular opportunities, assist them in advocating for themselves with adults in the building, and for seniors ensure that there are no barriers to participating in graduation ceremonies.

Resource Rooms
Thirty-four Five Star schools are home to a resource room, which are amazing community hubs that provide food, hygiene products, household items, school supplies, socks, underwear, winter jackets, and a variety of other items that are crucial to a student's ability to access their learning. Each room also has a room manager – a staff member at the school who is responsible for ordering resources, inventory, and distribution.

It is crucial for youth who are experiencing homelessness and their families to have a strong connection with their school. These rooms, funded by Adams County Government, Five Star Education Foundation, Safeway, Kaiser Permanente Thrive, St. Anthony North Health Campus, the Adams 12 Office of Federal Programs and Office of Whole Child Initiatives, and multiple other private and corporate donors, ensure that students feel that they belong and are with people that care about their success, furthering the commitment by Adams 12 Five Star Schools to be a caring, inclusive and engaging district which exists so the students it serves can attain the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue the future of their choosing and are equipped to navigate and thrive in our rapidly changing world.

How can you support youth experiencing homelessness in our community?

Contact us to learn more and get involved

The team of liaisons that make up the Student and Family Outreach Program support all the district's homeless students and families. Leigh Her-Moua is the lead homeless liaison for Adams 12 Five Star Schools and can be reached at (720) 972-4759.