School District Provides Services for Homeless Children - KFYRTV.COM - Bismarck, ND - News, Weather, Sports

School District Provides Services for Homeless Children

Those who work with homeless children say most people don't realize how many there are in Bismarck, and that parents are often unaware of the services the district provides.

This year, the Students in Transition program served a total of 462 children in Bismarck schools. These are children who lack a fixed, regular and adequate night time residence.

Program coordinator Heather Mattheis spends a lot of time away from her office, but says she's always working.

"Making sure all these kids are in school and if they're not, I go out and find them and get them to school, knocking on doors, sending text messages. It can be another family's home they are staying with because they can't find housing that's affordable, could be hotels, could be campgrounds, can be the shelter. I've gone to the mall."

By law, school districts have to eliminate barriers that keep homeless children away from school.

Mattheis explains, "If can't get them on a bus route, certain schools have bus routes, and if their parents don't provide their own transportation, we will provide a taxi and so they can't use that as an excuse is they don't have a way to get them there."

She says district helps children make a seamless transitions to their schools.

"Nobody can pinpoint that is a homeless child. They are on free and reduced lunches, but they're like every other kid, pinning in a school number so no kid can be picked out."

The Students in Transition program uses donations to help pay for things like after school programs and school and art supplies.

"If they want to do extra-curriculars I just contact the activities department and they will reduce that cost to almost nothing so those kids can participate," says Mattheis.

They also work with unattended youth, students who aren't living with parents or a guardian.  If a student is 18 and living on his or her own, they still qualify for all the services.

Ten students who were considered "unattended youth" recently graduated from Bismarck Public Schools and one more will graduate after summer school. Some of them are going to college and Matheis is helping them make that transition.

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