Westside Homeless Prevention exists to empower homeless families in Houston’s Spring Branch ISD and now the Mayde Creek area of Katy ISD to achieve self-sufficiency and a stable home environment, one in which their children have a better chance at academic success and brighter prospects for the future. WHP’s assistance includes intensive case management, resources, and supporting services that, together with the families’ own personal efforts, education, and growth, make lasting changes that transform their lives.
Understanding Family Homelessness
A job loss, family tragedy, or unexpected illness can happen to anyone. Families without a safety net of community support and financial resources are particularly vulnerable when a crisis occurs, and many wind up homeless–doubled up with another family, sleeping in their car, or staying at an emergency shelter
This is a very different face of homelessness than the stereotype of single adults on the streets. The fact is, families with children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population. Many are hard-working parents earning minimum wage. Most have not had the opportunity for an education or vocational training. And sometimes they cannot work because the cost of childcare or transportation is unaffordable.
Impact of Homelessness on Children
School districts across Harris and Fort Bend Counties have identified more than 10,000 homeless students; officials know there are more they have yet to identify. For most of these children, homelessness is not a brief or singular episode; it is a recurrent experience, fraught with educational and emotional setbacks that can affect them forever. Frequent school transfers are common, and missed school days, poor health and nutrition, and enrollment delays are the norm. With constantly changing schools, classmates, and teachers, these children lack access to a quality education. Yet education is the key to overcome their dire circumstances, escape the poverty cycle, and eventually obtain a job that pays a living wage.
One of WHP’s major objectives is to protect the children’s education by preventing the families from having to move from one school to another during the same school year. At the same time, improving the lives of at-risk students means improving their parents’ chances for economic success.