GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Homeless children deserve our attention. That's why we've taken weeks to investigate what we could do to help spotlight the issue and make people aware thousands of our children in West Michigan don't have an adequate place to sleep.
Now we're showing you what you can do to help homeless children directly. Our best advice is for you to donate money directly to the homeless school liaisons of each school district. A full list of them is here.
Each school district in Michigan has a liaison who is responsible to knock down all barriers to make sure kids who don't have a home still get an education and get transportation to and from school as well. Those liaisons can use federal, state and local funding to help with school supplies and healthy snacks, paying for school-related activities and field trips and provide clothing and hygiene products. But there are a few things they can't do that the public can help them with.
Pam Kies-Lowe, Michigan's Coordinator for Homeless Education, told us a story of a woman who found out she was going to be homeless for the weekend at 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon. She didn't have anywhere to take her three children and was likely going to have to live out of her car.
The woman reached out to the school's homeless liaison for help that Friday and because the public had donated money to fund emergency help in the district, they were able to help the family stay in a motel through the weekend until the emergency shelters were open at the beginning of the next week.
So Kies-Lowe's recommendation to anybody who wants to help homeless children, donate to your home school district's homeless liaison.
"(People who donate) can even provide a fund when we find out on Friday afternoon when the child is leaving that they are out of a place to live for the weekend," Kies-Lowe said. "Shelters are especially full on the weekends and so they could use their donated funds to provide motel lodging."
As an example of what some have done in donating to homeless liaisons, some businesses will allow employees to pay a small fee to wear jeans on Friday and the money gets donated to the district's homeless liaison to help the kids.
Schools have also participated in "Pajamarama" events allowing children to wear pajamas to school for a small donation that will be turned over the district's homeless liaison to pay for costs homeless children cannot afford.
Churches have stepped forward as well to with "undie Sunday" events where church members collect underwear for homeless children. Other churches have had sock-it-to-me Sunday as well where they collect socks for those in need.
Kies-Lowe says this kind of donating is as direct to the children as possible because people or organizations that donate to the liaison can earmark the money for whatever purpose they would like. Typically Kies-Lowe says the liaison will adhere to the request to make it happen for the benefit of the children.
The liaisons tell us the more help they have, the more normalcy they can give to children who have parents deeply struggling to support them.
"[Child homelessness[ is something that happened to you, this is not who you are," Kies-Lowe said. "It doesn't have to determine who you become."
You can also help homeless children by giving to great organizations like the United Way, Mel Trotter Ministries or Family Promise. United Way's 2-1-1 call helpline handles tens of thousands of calls annually, many of them from people who need emergency housing.
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