With KCKPS starting virtually, program to help homeless students working even harder

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — For students across the metro, going back to school may mean staying home, but what if you don’t have one?

Kansas City, Kansas, School District’s McKinney-Vento Program aims to help homeless students. 

KCKPS will begin the school year with 100% virtual learning. Jessica Smith with McKinney-Vento said the pandemic is affecting their outreach to kids who need their help.

She said the halls at school may be more familiar to some kids than where they sleep at night.

“They could be bouncing around from house to house,” Smith said. “They could literally be sleeping in their car, under a bridge, behind a building.”

Smith said more than 800 students are considered homeless in the district. This means they are living without a guardian or a stable place to live. This could be a child living with a person who is not their guardian, living from couch to couch, or living on the street.

Foster children are not a part of the program as they live with a guardian weather that is the state, a family member or foster parents.

Smith said the pandemic is making their job harder. She said when they found out the school would close for in-person learning last spring, she was scared. 

“I think I cried the first week. I called my boss in tears often,” Smith said.

She said children and families without a stable place may have fewer options. With the pandemic, it’s not easy to stay at home when your home isn’t yours.

“We might have two or three adults at home all day,” Smith said. “Five or six kids at home all day. I was very nervous about the families who would say, ‘OK, now you’ve got to get out. It’s too much for me.'”

While things are not good now, Smith said this fall she expects numbers — and need — to rise.

“We have anticipated somewhere around September, October when there will be a lot of foreclosures on homes, when things like that happen we anticipate that we will see upper middle class, mid-middle class families may need some services especially when we return back to buildings,” Smith said.

The program provides food, hygiene products, clothing and resources to kids in need. One of the major services they provide is transportation. Smith said they do their best to make sure children can be bused to their school to make sure there is normalcy.

“I know we’re going to not catch all of them,” Smith said. “I know that teacher they trusted a lot they don’t get to see that teacher, and they don’t get to tell that teacher they’re struggling.”

Smith said most districts have a similar program, and the hardest part is parents asking for help. 

“I want people to know we are here,” Smith said. “For me I think that is the biggest thing. We’re here. Period. That’s it.”

The program is accepting donations. They are not accepting clothing donations due to the pandemic, but there are several items that are extremely helpful:

  • Food: non-perishable items like Cup of Noodle soups, granola bars, oatmeal.
  • School supplies, backpacks
  • Hygiene products: Deodorant is the number one needed item. Shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc..

Items can be sent directly to the KCKPS office, located at 2010 N. 59 St., Kansas City, KS 66102.

If you are a KCK family in need and would like help through the McKinney-Vento Program, you can reach Smith at 913-279-2150 or jessicar.smith@kckps.org.

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