Schools on Wheels: Helping Homeless Children in Massachusetts
A few years ago I spoke with a group of mothers who were concerned about their children’s school. The neighborhood they lived in is called “transitional” and the school had an 85% turnover rate. That means that 85% of the children who started school in the beginning of the year didn’t finish the school year in that school. One hundred percent of the children received free breakfast and free lunch and it was the policy of the school to leave any left over cereal boxes out for the children to take home to share with their family for dinner.
Moving to Massachusetts, I’m always struck by the wealth that I see around me. The libraries are filled with books, the public school my son went to last year kept begging families to request free lunches so that they would qualify for Title 1 status. YET, poverty is real and homelessness exists in Massachusetts.
Recently WBUR, one of two public radio stations in Boston (the other is WGBH, another sign of the wealth of this area of the country) had a story that I want to share. It is about homelessness and school.
The statistics are staggering.
The story was about a teacher, Cheryl Opper, who read about the work of Agnes Stevens. Agnes started Schools on Wheels in 1993 in Santa Monica, California. It is a volunteer tutoring program to provide academic stability for homeless children.
In 2004 Cheryl started Schools on Wheels of Massachusetts in her kitchen where she trained volunteer tutors that she recruited from local universities. She worked with 20 children from two family shelters. From these humble beginnings,the program has served over 1700 children and has logged in over 24,000 tutoring hours.