There are nearly 50 homeless students in school within the Russellville School District, district officials trying to help them

RUSSELLVILLE, Arkansas — The Russellville School District is working on a solution to the problem of more than 50 homeless children, but it will take the combined efforts of many people to successfully solve the situation.

Dr. Brittany Turner, who works as an assistant to the superintendent for student support services at the school system, shared that the homeless help program is made possible thanks to a grant. Students in grades K-12 who are experiencing homelessness are provided assistance as a result of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

“As of right now, there are 59 kids participating in the program.” Turner continues by stating that the living situations of the students who are participating in the program could include the following: “they doubled up with another family, not by choice but because of financial or economic reasons or they may be in a motel or shelter or transitional living campgrounds, living in cars.”

A therapist specializing in mental health has joined the North Little Rock School Safety Task Force.

Turner states that they had the funding for seventeen years and renewed it every three years so that they could continue to assist their kids who were having difficulty. She goes on to say that because of the cash provided by it, they are able to house students in hotels and shelters. However, she is unsure as to why there is a fluctuation in the amount of kids that are homeless.

“Students come to us with a lot of baggage,” said Turner. “We try to be as welcoming as possible.”

On the other hand, the district is working to find ways to lighten its load.

According to Turner, “so that possibly some clothing in order to go to school, it may be school materials, and it may be access to extracurricular activities.”

According to Turner, the program is over for students once they graduate, but there are other opportunities available to them.

“In most cases, we collaborate with the Department of Human Services or other local groups in order to provide them with something when they depart, as well as to assist them in enrolling in food stamps and other support programs.

Turner notes that even though the funding has some restrictions, they rely heavily on the community groups with which they have partnered.

“We may have constraints on how many days we can purchase a hotel room, for example, so that may be where we call a respite center and say we’re at our limit let’s help collaborate with those community members,” said Turner. “We may also have limits on how many days we can rent an apartment.”

“One of their partners is River Valley Food For Kids, and the Executive Director Josh Dunbar says that they supply kids with backpacks full of food on the weekends because the district takes care of them during the week,” said Dunbar. “The district takes care of them during the week.”

According to Dunbar, the charitable organization reports that each year they assist an increasing number of pupils.

“On a daily basis, we are consistently providing meals to children in just the Russellville school district at this time. Over 550 children are receiving a bag per week from our organization, as stated by Dunbar.

The federal COVID-19 recovery funding requests from 44 Arkansas school districts have been approved by the Arkansas Legislative Council.

Turner asks if any members of the community are interested in lending a hand. They have the option of giving to one of the local charitable organizations.

Donations can be made on the website or by calling the number 479-223-1544.

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