Our community is gearing up to go back to school. It’s the time of year when parents shop for school supplies and kids count down the days to find out who their new teachers are and who’s in their class. It is an exciting time of year.
For the children we serve experiencing homelessness, it can be a dreaded time of year. They may worry about not being able to attend their same school because they moved into an emergency shelter or a different relative’s house over the summer. They may look forward to knowing they will get breakfast and lunch through school food programs, but wonder if they will be able to balance their homework load with the challenges of poverty and homelessness. It can be a tough time.
We are fortunate for so many in the community working to support kids and families during these times. At Clare House — the Catholic Social Services emergency shelter for moms and kids — we connect 100 percent of our school age children with the Child in Transition program through the Anchorage School District. Child in Transition provides services and supports to students and families experiencing homelessness. The program works to ensure homeless students have the same access to educational opportunities as other students, and promotes school stability and academic success for all its students. This program makes a difference in the lives of many children at Clare House — we are so grateful for the partnership and support from Child in Transition staff.
Partners across the community are working on the issue of child and youth homelessness. We are excited to be a part of the effort led by Covenant House Alaska to develop a plan to end youth homelessness in Anchorage. The city was awarded a $2 million grant by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to take innovative approaches to ending youth homelessness. The plan includes many aspects. It works with children in the Office of Children’s Services and foster care, in addition to the Department of Juvenile Justice and organizations like Covenant House and Catholic Social Services. Preventing adult homelessness must include focused work with youth and families. We are grateful to Covenant House Alaska and the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness for their leadership in this work.
Another great opportunity for school-aged children in need is HUGSS — Helping Us Give School Supplies. This event is supported by nonprofit and business partners around town to make sure every child in Anchorage has the school supplies they need for the new school year. This year HUGSS will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 15, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at East High School in Anchorage. If you are interested in volunteering or contributing, please visit Catholic Social Services at cssalaska.org.
As Christians, we are called to care for one another and for the world God created through small acts that are part of our daily lifestyle. We don’t have to look very far to find where we’re needed. If we pay attention, the opportunities are usually right under our noses, in our own families, schools, parishes and neighborhoods. As Mother Teresa once said, “We can do no great things — only small things with great love.”