School on Wheels Board Member Angela Sanchez shared her experience with homelessness for this installment of SoCal SoCurious. Listener Victoria asked, “How should I speak to kid about Homelessness?” Listen to the full interview here.
Category: In The News
In a recent interview with Selena Rivera of Hoy our CEO Catherine Meek shared the core mission of School on Wheels and the challenges faced by the students we serve.
Currently more than 345,000 homeless children reside in California, and nearly 65,000 of them are enrolled in Los Angeles County schools. Many of these children live in motels, shelters and even cars.
Due to their unstable economic status, they often change areas, which makes it difficult for them to attend school.
And then how can these children get the education they need?
This is where Schools on Wheels (SOW), in Spanish “Escuelas Rodantes”, take action, says Catherine Meek, executive director of the nonprofit organization.
“They are helped with backpacks, with supplies, they are registered in the schools and if they can not attend, they are given tutoring, but not only that. The main commitment of the organization is to give it hope, “says Meek. Since the recession began in 2007, the numbers of homeless children has increased and the need for more volunteers is critical.
Our executive director was interviewed by the Helpful Honda Hero team, who also donated $250 to School on Wheels!
As the executive director and longest standing tutor at School on Wheels, Catherine leads this non-profit which sends tutors into communities to work with and inspire homeless kids. She receives an “A+” from us, and we honor her as this week’s KNX Helpful Honda Hero!
A recent in-depth article by La Opinión highlights the many challenges faced by the students that School on Wheels serves, right now more than ever.
In the midst of the housing crisis experienced by thousands of people in Los Angeles County, there are approximately 17,258 students in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) who do not have a permanent home to live in, and 69% of them ( 11,908) belong to families of Latin origin: 5,834 women and 6,073 men.
And, according to the California Homeless Youth Project, as homelessness in the “Golden State” intensifies, the number of homeless children continues to rise. Since 2014, the number of homeless youth in California has increased by 20 percent to more than 202,329. This represents almost 4% of the school population in general.
“Many children live in hotels, cars, shelters or flee from domestic violence and that is why some are not with their parents; sometimes they get delayed with their studies and that’s why tutors come to help them, “said Lisette Gaeta, regional administrator of School on Wheels. “Here we seek to provide stability to homeless students in a time of stress and transition, and we help them achieve educational success so they can break the cycle of homelessness and poverty”.
In 1993 a retired school teacher, Agnes Stevens, was so deeply moved by the number and plight of homeless students she saw that she dedicated her life to setting up a nonprofit to help. School on Wheels has been providing one-on-one stable tutoring relationships ever since.
August marks the 25th anniversary of local nonprofit School on Wheels. School on Wheels began in Santa Monica with one tutor and now operates in six counties throughout Southern California. In 2010, it opened its flagship Skid Row Learning Center and since then has opened five Digital Learning Centers a in Compton, San Fernando Valley, Boyle Heights, Venice and Chino Hills. In 2017, 2,029 volunteers spent more than 100,000 hours tutoring 3,370 homeless kids. More than 5,000 backpacks, school supplies, uniforms and bus tokens have been distributed to children in need in the past year. Their Resource Center is located in Ventura.
“When I was 16 we were homeless in Los Angeles and we spent nights sleeping on buses and trains and finally moved into a shelter in Skid Row,” said Josephine Bailey McLein. “That’s when I found School on Wheels. Their center had internet and I could do my homework somewhere I felt safe. I worked hard to get all the requirements for college, but I never told anyone at my high school I was homeless. I am now a junior at USC majoring in human biology and my mom and sister finally have an apartment. School on Wheels encouraged me to keep up with my school work and to follow my dream of going to college.”
As California’s housing shortage intensifies, the number of homeless children continues to climb. Since 2014, the number of homeless youth in California has jumped 20 percent, to more than 202,329, and accounts for nearly four percent of the overall public school population, according to the California Homeless Youth Project.
“While childhood homelessness and poverty are daunting, I truly believe that when people come together around a shared belief, change is possible,” says Catherine Meek, executive director of School on Wheels.
Today, hundreds of volunteers work one-on-one with children whose homelessness prevents them from receiving the academic stability and help they desperately need. The heart of the School on Wheels’ program is the volunteer tutors who come from all backgrounds and professions, with a shared goal – to reach out to a child, to teach, to mentor and assist in his or her educational life. The mission of School on Wheels is to enhance educational opportunities for homeless children from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Tutoring in six counties in Southern California, including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
Sinead Chilton, Director, Development & Marketing School on Wheels, Inc. told the Breeze. “I met Agnes Stevens, the founder of School on Wheels at a volunteer training in Ventura in 2003. I knew straight away that I would know her for a long time and that her mission was an important one. Up until then, I didn’t realize that children were homeless in Ventura never mind the rest of America. School on Wheels has always had a presence in Ventura County and over the years has helped thousands of children in the county with backpacks, school supplies, one-on-one tutoring and mentoring. I still volunteer today and I think the mission is as important as ever.”