SOS Emergency Fund fosters resilience.
Isabella is a friendly second grader who loves school and never wants to miss a day. For a short period of time last December, Isabella’s family was homeless. Her mom was the victim of domestic violence, and they were forced to leave their home quickly. At first, Isabella’s mom didn’t know where to turn. The holidays were approaching, and the shelters were full. Local organizations offered to add them to a waiting list, but their family needed immediate assistance.
Then someone at Isabella’s school told her mom about the SOS Fund. Her mom met with a social worker from the Regional Office of Education who helped her secure a hotel room and made sure Isabella had boots and a coat, so she would stay warm at recess. Soon after that, they moved in with a relative. The social worker continued to work with Isabella’s mom to help her find a job and secure her transcripts, so she could enroll in CNA classes at Parkland. With help from the SOS Fund this family is on the path to a more stable future.
478 homeless students were documented in Champaign County during the 2015-2016 school year. According to Regina Parnell, Director of Family and Community Services at the Regional Office of Education, Isabella’s story is typical. “Homeless students seem to be invisible; however they are hiding here in plain sight,” says Parnell. “Most are sleeping on floors or couches of extended family members or friends.” The reasons for homelessness vary, and support for our students needs to match their needs. For some students, assistance means a hotel stay, for others it means a new pair of shoes.
Over the last seven years, our SOS fund has provided assistance to more than 1,000 homeless students in Champaign-Urbana. Through a joint application, the Regional Office of Education and the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation receive funds to support these students from the United Way of Champaign County. We have also received grants from First Midwest and CIBM Banks along with individual donations.
Cuts to state funding could reduce the number of families we are able to serve. Help us keep a network in place to provide immediate assistance so homeless students stay in school. Our goal is to raise an additional $13,000 this fall to meet the short-term need. In the meantime, we are working with the school districts and other community partners to find long-term solutions for our students.
This program is generously supported by the United Way of Champaign County.
Additional support provided by: