In her role, Rivers said, she makes homeless students and families aware of the help and resources available in the community.
According to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, students can be considered homeless if they “lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.” This can include:
• Sharing housing with others because of economic hardship or loss of housing;
• Living in a motel or hotel;
• Living in an emergency or transitional shelter;
• Awaiting foster care placement; or
• Living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings or similar settings.
Of the remainder, a small handful are in foster care awaiting placement, a few are classified as “unaccompanied youth” and one or two are living in a hotel, she said.
At the beginning of the school year, at least one child was living out of a vehicle, sleeping in a car parked in an acquaintance’s driveway.
“Thankfully, we found out about that after just a couple of nights,” Rivers said. “But that’s a really traumatic experience for a child, let alone the parent. I remember talking to that parent on the phone, who was just crying ... These kids that are doubled up, they don’t have a place of their own to be able to just settle in and find peace and get some rest. That feeds into the stress of a family, and the child picks up on all of that for sure.”
Everyone has a different idea about solving homelessness, Rivers said, and they’re almost always with the best intentions.
“More than anything, it’s about relationships more than it is about programs,” Rivers said. “ ... I don’t think you need to build a building to meet people where they are. Our biggest fixture is helping people strategize, ‘What do you want for your family, and what’s it going to take to get there?’”