Thursday, July 29, 2010

What is the McKinney-Vento Act?

Just last week, an article appeared in The Times Record entitled "Teens on their own". The article tells the story of Trina, a young girl living in a homeless shelter. Trina became homelessness before the age of 18.

Trina is one of many young adults that lives without a permanent address and couch surfs with friends. Some homeless youth, even with a temporary place to stay, may not have access to basic resources such such as food, showers, or a good night's sleep. Even if they have basic resources, they may not have access medical or health services. It can be hard to stay in school when you're tired or sick and unable to access resources others take for granted.

So how did Trina stay in school and finish her high school degree? Luckily for Trina, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act exists for homeless youth.

What is the McKinney-Vento Act? Well, I could give you the whole low down but that here's item 1 of the McKinney-Vento Statement of Policy:

"(1) Each State educational agency shall ensure that each child of a homeless individual and each homeless youth has equal access to the same free, appropriate public education, including a public preschool education, as provided to other children and youths." (

This act allows great people such as the shelter worker and school counselors in Trina's life to support homeless youth and provide them with the resources they need. How do schools help students that are homeless (whether with family or on their own)? Each school and district has a McKinney-Vento Representative. That representative ensures that all students identified as homeless receive basic resources such as food and clothes. They support them and ensure students can stay in school.

Local services as shown in The Times Record article often provide assistance to McKinney-Vento Representatives, such as providing them with resources needed for the youth.

StandUp For Kids - Bremerton ( in Washington is a great example of a program supporting youth protected under McKinney-Vento. They provide various services to over 400 kids a week within the Bremerton school system. As part of their backpack outreach program, they distribute backpacks full of supplies on a weekly basis to the representatives that are then distributed to the youth.

The StandUp For Kids - Worcester program is currently launching our own backpack outreach program. We need the help of our community to get this program started. We need groups and schools to volunteer to host food and supply drives for our backpack outreach program.

Contact us at for more info on how you can help.

In the St. Louis area? They're launching a backpack outreach program too. In the Bremerton area? I'm sure they'd love a helping hand, too!

Or think about starting a StandUp For Kids backpack outreach program in your community...

Read up on the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act at

You can also get local information about Massachusetts McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance at

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Outreach - What is it?

Outreach can really be broken down into three types of outreach at the SUFK - Worcester chapter:

1. Scouting. When we kicked off the outreach team, this was the first thing we did. We visited various different locations in Worcester trying to determine where the kids were. Now that we have a regular location, we don't necessarily have to scout. But it's good to survey new locations, especially when you have a good number of outreach counselors. Six outreach counselors scheduled for one night of street outreach? Send four of them out to explore and keep two familiar faces at the regular location to talk to youth. Those who go scouting then engage in street outreach with youth they meet during scouting.
2. Street Outreach. Quite simply, street outreach is getting out there and talking to youth. We go to a regular location once a week. Every week we approach new and regular youth. We provide them with immediate resources and also encourage them to set long term goals. We also provide them with information about local services, such as food pantries and GED Programs. Do you know where the closest food pantry is to your house? No. Then chances are an at-risk or homeless youth doesn't either.
3. Outreach Center. Once a youth has set his or her long term goals, we set up an appointment with him or her at our outreach center (or a location convenient to the youth) and assist the youth in identifying the steps needed to complete that goal. For example, a youth wants to apply for a job. The basic step to start with is what is the youth interested in doing? What is his or her skills? And then start to expand on that with asking if the youth has ever developed a resume, job searched, etc.?

We are also adding a 4th Type of Outreach to our program!

4. Backpack Outreach. We'll provide immediate resources such as food and clothes to McKinney Vento Reps at the local schools. These supplies will then be distributed to youth identified as homeless within the school system. We are currently working with our first school to kick off this program. We also need to get local support to provide supplies and pack backpacks (no training needed to do this... just your time and energy!).

Of course, that's just a brief description of each type of outreach we do. Want to learn more about our program? Want to help out? Contact us at to attend our next Volunteer Orientation (Wednesday, August 11th).

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Hot Days of Summer

Summer is normally the busiest time for us during street outreach. The weather is great which means more kids are outside. This time of the year always becomes a great time to recruit new volunteers as well.

Of course, with record high temps in the last couple weeks, we actually had to conduct our most recent training in a room with no air conditioning at about 95 degrees. So we'd like to do a special shout out to new volunteer Sarah Blondin for withstanding 3 hours in a quite toasty room.

Also, congratulations to Cleon McClure who conducted his first Basic Volunteer Training. Cleon will be co-training new volunteers with Kristina England.

Kristina England also conducted the July Volunteer Orientation. We had two prosepctive volunteers attend: Amber and Amanda. Both Amber and Amanda are interested in outreach counseling. We look forward to having them both as members of our outreach team. Amber and Amanda will attend training later this month.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Looking a bit closer at youth homelessness

When our counselors go out every week, it's hard to approach complete strangers on the street. But for the youth we meet, it's even harder.

One of the core pieces of outreach counseling is building trust with a youth.

The number one reason for youth homelessness is child abuse: neglect, physical, sexual, and/or emotional.

These youth have been hurt time and time again.

Then a group of complete stranger walk up to them and say they can help.

Yes, outreach counseling can be overwhelming, sometimes frustrating. But when part of counseling is building a relationship with kids who don't have a "family", don't have someone to care about them, it's pretty hard to imagine yourself not doing this work. When you can tell a kid that he or she can get a warm meal to eat down the street or his/her GED, it's worth it.

And it doesn't become so hard when you realize how much these youth need someone there just to say hello to them everyday, just to tell them they matter.

We can work with a youth once, for months, or for years, helping motivate him/her to fulfill short term and/or long term goals. It takes time. Change does not happen overnight. That's the hard part. Being there though all the good days and not so good days. But it's also the best part of being an outreach counselor.

We are always excited to have more outreach counselors on our team. Join us at our next volunteer orientation - Wednesday, July 14th at 7:00 p.m. Contact for more details.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Join Our Program - Volunteer Orientation

You're invited
Volunteer Orientation
July 14, 2010 @ 7:00 p.m.
Wesley United Methodist Church
114 Main Street
Worcester, MA

Please RSVP to Once you RSVP, you'll receive more information, including our orientation packet!

How long does orientation last?
Volunteer Orientation is one hour. Once you complete orientation and your background form is processed, you will then attend volunteer training (3 hours for basic volunteers, 6 hours for outreach counselors).

What will I learn at orientation?
  • The National Statistics on Youth Homelessness
  • The Local Statistics on Youth Homelessness
  • A Brief History of StandUp For Kids (SUFK)
  • Ways You Can Become Involved in the SUFK - Worcester Chapter