As we approach the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey hitting the Texas Gulf Coast, youth and their families in the area are continuing to feel the effects of the devastating storm. One of the most persistent challenges is homelessness, with many of those who were displaced still living without permanent, stable housing. We know that schools are one of the best places to identify young people experiencing homelessness and connect them with the support they need, and TNOYS is grateful for new grants from the Rebuild Texas Fund that will allow us to help make that happen in schools that were impacted by the storm.
The funding comes in the form of two grants that together total $1 million. The first grant, for $400,000, will fund a collaborative effort between TNOYS, Texas Homeless Network (THN) and partners in the education field to support school personnel who are tasked with identifying and assisting homeless students across all five regions impacted by the storm. A joint report released by TNOYS and Texas Appleseed in December 2017 showed that schools hold significant promise for connecting students experiencing homelessness with services and supports, but another 2017 TNOYS report found that the educators tasked with identifying and supporting homeless students face many challenges and competing demands that often make it difficult for them to fully assist these youth. With help from the new grant, TNOYS and partners hope to address those challenges by giving school personnel the knowledge and resources to connect homeless students and their families with needed support.
The second grant is meant to strengthen the capacity of the providers that educators will refer homeless youth and their families to for services. It anticipates that once educators are able to better identify students experiencing homelessness, they alone cannot meet these students’ needs and it will be important to ensure there are adequate community-based services available to help. This grant, for $600,000, will be distributed by TNOYS and partners as pass-through funding to build the capacity of organizations in the Gulf Coast area who will receive referrals of homeless youth and families from educators. It will be distributed in the form of $50,000 grants to between 10 and 25 community-based organizations that provide safety net services such as counseling and crisis intervention, emergency shelter, transitional housing, rental assistance, and more.
“Often, natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey receive significant attention in the days and weeks after the storm, but many people don’t realize how long-lasting the impact can be, especially for those youth and families who were already facing challenges,” said Christine Gendron, TNOYS’ executive director. “We are very grateful to the Rebuild Texas Fund for helping us to address this serious problem of youth and family homelessness that continues to persist in the Gulf Coast area and is seriously impacting the lives of young residents there.”
The funding comes at a good time, just as the new school year is kicking off and students are heading back to school. TNOYS is looking forward to working with both our partner organizations and the educators who have the power to identify and reach youth and families who remain in need long after last year’s storm.