Homeless Keiki in the Classroom

Homeless Keiki in the Classroom

Over 3,500 children in the Hawaii DOE system were living in unstable housing situations in 2020. Unstable housing refers to a lack of a fixed, regular and adequate primary nighttime residence. Those who are experiencing unstable housing typically fall into one of the three categories: sheltered; unsheltered; doubled-up. 

Sheltered Staying in emergency, domestic violence, or transitional facilities.

UnshelteredSleeping at the beach, in cars, tents, or sheds. 

Doubled-upShared housing, with relatives or friends.

During the 2019 to 2020 school year, 70% of children experiencing homelessness reported sleeping in a doubled-up primary nighttime residence, 21% were sheltered, and 8% lived unsheltered. Doubled-up living, though the most common, is often more stressful for children and families than staying in shelters. It is a short-term fix that continuously gets pushed beyond its original time frame. 

Unstable housing affects a student’s engagement and education. Children living in unstable housing attend school less frequently than their peers. They have trouble completing assignments and staying awake or focusing in class. They may wear the same clothes repeatedly to school or lack classroom and school supplies. 

Services for Keiki & Families at IHS

The IHS Kaaahi Women’s & Family Shelter is a safe space for families in immediate need while working toward stabilization. From there, families can transfer to permanent housing options including Kahauiki Village, or an independent housing unit with help from a spectrum of housing assistance programs. 

The IHS Children’s & Family Program works with unstable families by providing structure and predictable routine. Each member of the family gets to rebuild their self confidence, allowing them to thrive in their respective work, social, and/or educational environments. For school-aged keiki, family program case managers provide customized plans to support child development in partnership with parents. Wireless internet is available for residents to use 24/7. School supplies and clothing are also made available thanks to generous donors.

In 2020, 494 children were served at the Kaaahi Women’s & Family Shelter. An integral part of the Children’s Program is teaching values including: respect, perseverance, and responsibility; and also basic life skills like: goal setting and achievement, keeping a space clean and orderly, preparing healthy snacks, and completing a task. The after-school program provides tutoring, art and extracurricular activities, enhancing each child’s education and supporting parents to work. The Children’s Program also offers enrichment programs for summer, fall, and winter breaks, partnering with local businesses to offer unique field trips and learning experiences. 

IHS coaches parents in their support for children tailored to each adult’s assessed need, Topics addressed include how to support academic success, adherence to health-screenings, nutrition, budgeting, stress management, and lifestyle counseling. 

In addition to providing direct service, IHS works closely with schools to ensure all children have access to free breakfast and lunch, transportation if needed, and other supportive services that help level the playing field between them and their stably housed peers.

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