Please read this article. It’s about the realities of rural homelessness featuring Sandra Plantz, the homeless liaison for school kids in Gallia County, Ohio. One of my favorite parts is this:
Every school in Plantz’s district has boxes of supplies — children’s underwear, toiletries, prom dresses — and she is always looking for ways to destigmatize the process of getting those items to the students who need them. At River Valley High, they are stored in the Raider Room (named for the school’s mascot), which also has a shower. She brings kids in and out to do various school-related chores so that visiting the room is not seen as a sign of poverty. When one of her students, a cheerleader, stopped coming to school because her unstable housing situation made it impossible to do her hair in the morning, Plantz bought her a $14 hair straightener from Walgreens and put it in the Raider Room.
Sandra Plantz, homeless liaison for Gallia County, Ohio Local Schools.
Sandra Plantz is a hero and I wanted to send her money. And so I tracked her down and heard back from her about what the Raider Room needed next. And then it occurred to me: I wonder if every school system in the United States has local Homeless Liaisons for their students.
Yes, they do.
Where I serve the Church in North Carolina, we cover seven counties and not all of them are rural. Every Church in every county in the United States needs to know the name of the Homeless Liaison in the place where your congregation is located. There are homeless students – more than we realize – in each of our counties. The very least our congregations can do is partner with the liaison in your county. Find out what they need. Form a relationship with that liaison office. Help those students with anything that would possibly make their lives more comfortable.
It could be a winter coat. It could be a hair straightener. For the love of God – literally – we can prevent kids from living in shame because their families struggle with homelessness.
If you live in my own Presbytery, here are the people you need to know:
- Anson County – Mary Ratliff, Administrator Student Services
- Cabarrus County – Amanda Smith, McKinney-Vento Liaison
- Mecklenburg County – Courtney Lacaria, Community Support Services
- Montgomery County – Tracy Grit, Associate Superintendent, HR
- Richmond County – Kim Childers, McKinney-Vento Liaison
- Stanly County – Beverly Pennington, Student Services Director
- Union County – Lori Spruiell, Title 1 Specialist
Look up the names of the liaison in your local county government and contact them. Schedule a meeting. Invite them to lunch. Find out what they need.
Find. Out. What. They. Need.
If you do not live in the Charlotte Presbytery area, google “homeless liaison” in your home school district. And make friends with them. This is an essential task for this week. Holidays are coming. Winter is coming.
Send money to Sandra Plantz in Ohio and also connect with your local school district. You might be surprised how many housing insecure students attend your local schools. They are our neighbors. They are our children.