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Head Start Seeing More Homelessness

Ohanian Comment: Instead of making sure every family in America has access to a living wage and a home, our government is busy preparing the skills test rules for Head Start kids.

Read some advice NCLB issues to parents in the light of the distressing statistics from Rhode Island provided in the article below. One can wonder if the feds distribute their advice for good parenting to every homeless shelter in the land.

“The ages between birth and age 5 are the foundation upon which successful lives are built.” --Laura Bush

  • President Bush believes that all children must begin school with an equal chance at achievement so that no child is left behind. To that end, he signed the No Child Left Behind Act, which proposed reforms expressing his confidence in our public schools and their mission to build the mind and character of every child, from every background, in every part of America.
  • This booklet includes activities for families with children from infancy through age 5. Most of the activities make learning experiences out of the everyday routines in which you and your child already participate. Most use materials that are found in your home or that can be had free of charge from your local library.
  • Seeing to it that your preschool child has nutritious food, enough exercise and regular medical care gives him* a good start in life and lessens the chances that he will have serious health problems or trouble learning later on.
  • Make reading aloud a quiet and comfortable time that your child looks forward to. Chances are very good that he will like reading all the more because of it.
  • Try to spend at least 30 minutes each day reading to and with your child.
  • When you take your child to the library, check out a book for yourself. Then set a good example by letting your child see you reading for yourself.
  • Children are fascinated by how books look and feel. They see how easily you handle and read books, and they want to do the same. When your toddler watches you handle books, she begins to learn that a book is for reading, not tearing or tossing around.
  • Any household task can become a good learning game—and can be fun. Jobs around the home that need to get done, such as:
    Doing the laundry
    Washing and drying dishes
    Carrying out the garbage
    Setting the dinner table

  • And on and on and on. Like so much of the rest of our society, the Bush administration doesn't admit that the children having the most difficulty in pre-school and later don't have homes in which they can help set the dinner table.

    Head Start Seeing More Homelessness

    PROVIDENCE -- The classroom full of preschoolers buzzes with energy.

    Children play with blocks in one corner, role-play in a pint-sized kitchen in another and draw and doodle on a nearby table.

    Happy as the everyday routine seems, Head Start teachers and administrators are haunted by a reality: One of the children in their classroom might not have a place to go home to at the end of the day.

    That child is among an increasing number of homeless families that social service agencies are serving on a daily basis, according to Sheila Capece, mental health manager for Providence Head Start.

    "We want people to understand that homelessness doesn't just affect adult males," Capece said at a news conference this week designed to draw attention to the problem. "Homelessness affects children, too."

    The Providence Head Start program -- which serves 1,213 children in Providence and the Blackstone Valley -- has served children in at least 25 homeless families just this year, Capace told the audience at the Friendship Head Start Center on Point Street.

    "In the United States of America, one of the richest countries in the world, we should not have even one [homeless] family."

    Haven Miles, clinical supervisor for the Providence Center's Early Childhood Institute, said that children age 2 and 3 are greatly affected by the nurturing, organized and safe qualities of a typical home.

    And, she said, they are also affected -- in an obviously negative way -- when they lose that home and "everything you know is wiped away."

    Miles said children might respond to that by either being "depressed, sad, without hope" or by behaving "very, very badly" in an expression of frustration.

    Capece and Noreen Shawcross, executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, are among those lobbying parents and community leaders to support legislation that aims to ease homelessness throughout the state. They urged residents to call, e-mail or write their elected officials to let them know of their support.

    The Housing First, Ending Homelessness Initiative -- proposed in House bill 7472 and Senate bill 2259 -- would create 60 rental subsidies that would provide transitional homes for families leaving emergency shelters. The program would provide up to 24 months of support services that would enable families to make the transition from shelter to rental housing.

    The bills were introduced by Rep. Thomas Slater, D-Providence, and Sen. Rhoda Perry, D- Providence, with support from other legislators, including Representatives Joseph Almeida, D-Providence, and Anastasia Williams, D-Providence. Slater, Perry and Almeida attended the news conference.

    The initiative would cost the state an estimated $750,000 the first year and $921,000 annually after that.

    Housing advocates say something must be done to counter the increase in homelessness.

    Last year, Rhode Island shelters served 5,686 men, women and children -- 5-percent more than the previous year. Of those, 1,450 were children, according to figures compiled by the Coalition for Homelessness.

    The coalition also found that the average wait for federally subsidized Section 8 housing is nearly five years and that 50 percent of renters in the state cannot afford the market rent for a two-bedroom apartment.

    In addition, more than 85 percent of people eligible for supportive housing programs are able to sustain their homes, the coalition found.

    Shawcross noted that this year marked the second winter that the state had to open a winter shelter for families; she decried the fact that such resources had to be spent on shelters "when what we really need is [permanent] housing."

    While the state budget is tight, Shawcross said, the proposed subsidy program will save money that it would spend on shelters, foster care or Department of Human Services provisions. She noted that mothers involved with welfare-to-work programs must have a home in order to maintain their jobs or continuing education.

    Pat Stein, a Providence Center case manager, said homeless mothers face an incredible amount of daily stress as they strive to get their children to school or bus stops.

    And homeless teens go to great lengths to hide from their friends and teachers the fact that they live at a shelter, Capece said.

    Capece said Head Start took up the issue in order to "educate the community on issues that affect them" with the goal of motivating people to become involved in the voting process.

    Mary Dean, director of Providence Head Start, said encouraging parents to speak out against homelessness is part of the agency's overall campaign to get residents more involved in their communities.

    Earlier this year, the agency launched a campaign to get Head Start parents registered to vote. Dean said the agency will follow up by making sure those who are registered can get to the polls on election day.

    — Karen A. Davis
    Providence Journal


    http://www.projo.com/education/content/projo_20040409_phead9.21d27.htmlProvidence Journal



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