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Homeless students will get boost

Hart district receives $45,750 bonus to help purchase bus passes, backpacks and supplies

Posted: July 6, 2009 10:05 p.m.
Updated: July 7, 2009 4:55 a.m.

The Hart district received a $45,750 bonus in funding to provide school supplies for a rising number of homeless students, a district spokeswoman said Monday.

The additional dollars come as the school district will receive $70,000 a year for the next four years, double what the district is accustomed to receiving, through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, said Pat Willett, spokeswoman for the William S. Hart Union High School District.

The one-time amount of $45,750 came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The Hart district served more than 850 homeless students in grades seven through 12 in the 2008-09 school year, Willett said. The school year before, the district counted 675 students, she said.

The money will go toward the purchase of bus passes, backpacks and school supplies, Willett said.

The bus passes allow for students to remain at the same junior high or high school despite their unstable living situations.

The number has been on the increase for the past several years, most recently because of the down economy, Willett said.

"Part of it may simply be that there were kids here that we were not finding," she said.

Students might not have accepted assistance in the past because they would stay with family or friends in the area.

"In this instance, I think they're really hurting this year," Willett said.

While the stimulus and McKinney-Vento funds are to be spent for education-related items, district officials work with local organizations, like Lutheran Social Services, Santa Clarita Community Development Corporation and the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry, to meet other needs.

The Santa Clarita Valley Emergency Winter Shelter, operated by the Santa Clarita Community Development Corporation from December through March, saw an increase in the number of families this past season, said Tim Davis, executive director.

For the 2008-09 season, 21 families sought shelter, 33 adults and 43 children, he said.

Usually, the shelter works with single parents and their children, Davis said. This year brought whole families together.

"I would guess that it's the economy and the foreclosures," he said.

The shelter maintains a relationship with the Hart district so that each organization can meet the needs of a homeless student.

"We focus on food and housing and job," Davis said. "And (the) Hart (district) does a really nice job in getting on with books, school supplies, uniforms, transportation."


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