A recent Toledo Blade story highlights the epidemic of student housing insecurity in Toledo Public Schools, citing a report from the Ohio Department of Education that says more than 1 in 10 students in the district are classified as homeless.
Blade staff writers Nolan Rosenkrans and Valentin Ornelas, Jr. tell the beautifully sad story of one Toledo teen who’s moved 10 times in five school years – often staying in a motel with his mother or crashing with relatives – and is currently living on his own. He plays football and hopes to play for a MAC team after graduating. And nearly no one knows he’s homeless.
This number of homeless students in Toledo has steadily risen over the past few years – 37% since 2014 – but many haven’t noticed.
In a follow-up story, WTOL11 reporter Dane Sazenbacher notes that it’s is a problem hiding in plain sight, largely due to the stigma that comes with being homeless, but there’s no hiding the numbers.
Toledo has the smallest population of Ohio’s four largest cities, yet we have the highest number of students considered as homeless – a staggering 2,700 youths.
The Ohio Department of Education defines homeless students as those who lack a fixed, regular night-time residence. Homeless students may be living in motels, hotels, staying on different friends’ couches or living at a local shelter like Toledo’s Family House – the largest shelter of its kind in Northwest Ohio.
In most cases, their peers, teachers and school administrators are unaware of a these students’ circumstances, often by design. Family House Executive Director Renee Palacios sheds light on why with WTOL.
“You want friends, you want to be accepted, and a lot of the time homeless kids aren’t accepted. So they keep their situation a secret to protect themselves and their families from whispers and sideways glances. And mom and dad keep their situation a secret to protect their kids,” she says.
Thanks to the McKinney-Vento grant from the Ohio Department of Education, Family House is able to provide the students living there with shelter, food, school supplies and clothes. But this grant has been absent from the TPS operations budget for the last two years. Family House leadership hopes that help is on the way.
TPS leaders said they’ve already reapplied for the grant and have been approved. They’re just waiting to hear the exact dollar amount. TPS leaders also said that the funding will go into effect for the 2017-2018 school year.
Family House and other local shelters also rely heavily on community support to provide for the students they serve throughout the year. Family House receives a lot of crayons, paper, glue, folders, etc., but they’re most in need of non-traditional school supplies, such as:
• Antibacterial wipes and gel
• Plastic baggies in sandwich, quart and gallon sizes
• Paper towels
• Gently-used uniform pieces (navy, black or khaki pants & plain, solid color polo shirts)
• New underwear (boys & girls, all sizes)
• Flash drives
• Dry erase markers
Post-it® notes and copy paper have also appeared on some classroom supply lists. Click the links below to find school supply lists in Toledo and surrounding areas, and consider picking up a few extras to donate to the students at Family House. (Some TPS schools don’t have lists posted yet, but you can contact them directly for information.)