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School opens homeless shelter in its gym

Words by Smiley Team

Homelessness and the housing crisis are ongoing issues in the United States. At any given moment, over 500,000 people are homeless in America, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Those people are often veterans, people struggling with mental illness, or just people down on their luck. Something that falls through the cracks, however, is the youth.

There are over 40,000 individuals between the ages of 13 and 25 experiencing homelessness, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures – and those are just the unaccompanied. The number of those experiencing homeless with their families adds to the count. This results in instability in children’s upbringing and missing some of the foundations of youth, like school.

A new program at a San Fransisco school named Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 has been offered as an answer to that instability issue. The school opened its gym to be a temporary shelter for students and their families, it was the first such program in the country. 

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Now, it’s been over four years and other places across the US and Canada are looking to implement similar programs. 

“Anybody who is staying there has run out of options,” said Nick Chandler, the community school coordinator. “That so many people are utilizing it shows you how few options there are.”

This isn’t the first time the school has broken ground on new ideas either, as they are the city’s first Spanish-immersion public school. The idea that the school remains a safe place for students is part of why it works.

“You’re entrusting your children to this place,” school principal ClaudiaDeLarios Morán said. “It makes sense that families feel comfortable here, especially if … we mean it when we say, ‘This is a safe place. We’re here to support you.’”

The shelter is run by Dolores Street Community Services, a nonprofit helping low-income residents and immigrants. It’s open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. every weekday — ensuring privacy for the families before and after classes — while remaining open 24 hours on the weekend.

As the school year ends, it’ll be open 24 hours all summer.

Inspired to Act?

DONATE: Donate to the Dolores Street Community Center to support the ongoing program.

SUPPORT: Look into volunteering at local homeless shelters and food banks to help support those in your community experiencing homelessness.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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