As we continue to monitor developments regarding COVID-19, we wanted to update you regarding School on Wheels and the steps we are taking to support our students, volunteers, partners, and team. The situation is still very fluid, continually evolving, and impacting our communities in many ways.
As we always do, we are keeping children experiencing homelessness front and center. While we have suspended all on-site tutoring, closed our Skid Row Learning Center, and canceled all planned events, our staff is working remotely and still in close contact with families, partners, and volunteers to ensure that our students are supported. We recognize that our ability to work from home is a privilege and we are so grateful to all those who have no choice but to go to work so that the rest of us are taken care of.
Our major priority at the moment is to identify and fulfill the most critical needs of our students, their families, and the shelter staff who are on the front lines. This is what we have done in the past two weeks:
Conducted outreach to over 250 shelters and school districts we work with to identify their major needs; surveyed them as to internet access and hardware available for students.
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Let’s work together and do what we can to stay safe during this crisis, making sure our most vulnerable kids–those without a home–have the support they need to grow up healthy and get the education they need to survive and thrive. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
At School on Wheels, our top priority is always the safety and well-being of our students, volunteers, staff, partners, and communities.
Effective immediately, we have suspended all in-person tutoring services to our students and have canceled all events. We will put all new applications and student/volunteer matches on hold. Our Skid Row Learning Center will also be closed for the time being.
For most of our students, school is their only safety net, offering food, education, physical and mental health services, caring adults, and a safe place to be during the day. Schools and after school programs offer stability and safety. We will help our students by offering alternatives to in-person tutoring during this time. We are working directly with our active tutors to implement this as quickly as possible.
We are collaborating with our staff and board, as well as external educators and other partners, to find creative ways to support our students and community during this time. We know this situation will have a huge impact on our most vulnerable populations and we are committed to our mission of serving children experiencing homelessness.
Extreme negative emotions, like fear, can have a devastating effect on a student’s ability to learn. Fear amps up threat perception and aggression. It can also subsequently make it hard for children to understand causal relationships, or to change their mind as context changes. – David Brooks
A recent article in the New York Times highlights the growing body of neuroscience knowledge that reaffirms what we have known at School on Wheels for a long time—”children learn from people they love, and that love in this context means willing the good of another, and offering active care for the whole person.”
Homeless students are more susceptible to being exposed to negative and harmful imagery than their counterparts. That imagery can have a devastating impact on a homeless student’s emotional state. Research shows that having at least one caring adult in a child’s life dramatically increases the likelihood that they will thrive and become productive citizens themselves. School on Wheels is committed to providing not only supportive academic assistance but also consistency in the form of a caring human being.
Thousands of families experience homelessness on any given night in America, leaving many children stricken by the grief of instability and unpredictability. There is a saying in Skid Row, “homeless but not hopeless.” But where does your hope come from if you’re the mother of four young, energetic children crammed in a motel room suitable for one or two people? How do you survive days when your kids go to bed hungry? Where does your hope come from when you’re an 8-year-old child whose only concept of home includes a revolving door?
I wish we lived in an America where homelessness didn’t exist; where kids could go to school without worrying about where they will sleep at night or if they will have enough food; where kids wouldn’t take on the burdens of adulthood. An America where kids could be kids – laughing, running, jumping, learning – the way they were meant to be.
So what can we do? We can start by speaking up, advocating for change, and accepting nothing less. Our friends need us, and we must deliver.