Area school district experiencing ‘crisis’ with student homelessness

In 2020, the city of Springfield declared homelessness a public health crisis because the pandemic caused shelters to shut down.

Shelters have reopened, but homelessness is still a problem — specifically within Springfield City Schools.

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Roughly 300 students enrolled in Springfield City Schools are homeless and that number could be higher.

“Our community is in a homeless crisis and it’s going to take the community to help meet the needs of these children,” said Elaina Bradley, executive director of Sheltered Inc.

It’s a crisis Springfield City Schools officials are hearing from several students.

“The students have to report to us if they are experiencing homelessness,” said Dr. Pamela Shay, director of Federal Programs at Springfield City Schools.

Shay, who oversees special populations within the school district, said each of the 300 students experience homelessness in different ways.

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“So it might be that you’re doubling up with another family member or friend. It could be that you’re living in temporary housing through a shelter,” Shay said.

Sheltered Inc., formally known as the Interfaith Hospitality Network, provides emergency shelter services to anyone, including families with children.

In 2021, 644 children used Sheltered Inc.’s housing services. So far in 2022, the number is 456 children and many of them attend school in Springfield.

Shay and family outreach staff work with Sheltered Inc. in a continuing effort to understand these students’ situations.

“You have such a caring staff and team that helps build those personal relationships with the students so that they’re comfortable talking and building relationships with the families, and you try to see what is it that we can do?” Shay said.

According to Bradley, homeless students face stress and anxiety, which can lead to other issues because they constantly worry about things such as where they are going to sleep, how they are going to eat and how they can study and focus.