Ongoing efforts to help students and their families affected by homelessness is one of the top priorities this year for Region 4 Education Service Center.

Region 4 Education Service Center is an education center dedicated to working with Greater Houston area school districts and public charter schools in an attempt to promote excellence in education.

One of the main projects Region 4 is working on is the distribution of 2023-2024 ARP (American Rescue Plan) Homeless II, ESC (Education Service Center) COVID Recovery Reallocation Grant funds.

“When this grant first came out, districts had the opportunity to receive funding to serve students and their families who are experiencing homelessness,” education specialist LaShonda Evans said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many families experienced some form of homelessness due to the state of the economy and the loss of jobs during that time. These funds will be used to help families in a variety of ways.

“The idea was to provide districts with funding to be able to help identify those students and to be able to start using the McKinney-Vento Act, which is a federal act that has been around for a while,” education specialist Twiana Collier said. “We want to make sure that families are aware of the various situations that would make them be considered homeless, because it's more than just a family living out under a bridge or in their car. The federal definition of homelessness is very broad.”

According to their website, the McKinney-Vento Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program is the federal program that removes barriers to education for children and youth experiencing homelessness. The McKinney-Vento Act defines homeless as children lacking a fixed, regular and adequate residence.

Some of the ways funding will be used to help students experiencing homelessness:
  • free or reduced lunch
  • increased training for staff who come in contact with these students
  • rent assistance
  • providing backpacks, school supplies, hygiene kits, blankets, air mattresses
  • investing in trauma-informed care
  • technical assistance
  • youth leadership events
  • gas and food cards
  • transportation services
  • tutoring services and college prep materials
  • laundry kits and clothing
The plan for the funding has to be submitted by Region 4 to the Texas Education Agency for approval, and then the resources are available to the districts on a first-come, first-served basis.

The McKinney-Vento Act has already provided an enormous amount of relief for students and their families, and Region 4 hopes this additional funding will only continue to do so.

“Just having that extra money for parents to be able to use for gas since gas is so expensive, that in itself is helping them,” Evans said. “With prices being so high for everything nowadays, being able to also buy food is a big thing that has helped them while they're in school. That we're able to provide them with some of that funding goes a long way for helping families.”

To learn more about the work Region 4 Education Service Center is doing, visit the website or email [email protected].

The above story was produced by Community Impact's Senior Multi Platform Journalist Sierra Rozen with information solely provided by the local business as part of its "sponsored content" purchase through our advertising team.