CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Of the roughly 20,000 students in the Akron Public School system, about 1,900 of them are homeless.
Ohio schools closed on March 17, making the realities of home schooling much more difficult, if not nearly impossible.
Project Rise works with the schools, students and their families to remove barriers and make sure students don’t fall through the cracks.
Shannah Carino is the Akron Schools Homeless Liaison, and she said there are families and students in all types of situations and every case is different. “We have students in hotels, doubled up in shelters, very rarely we’ll have a family who isn’t able to get into a shelter or doesn’t want to utilize a shelter, so they’re sleeping in their car.”
For the nearly 2,000 Akron students without a place to call home the pandemic brings a whole new set of challenges. Cariño said, “We saw an achievement gap between homeless students and students who were permanently housed before all this happened, and now of course it’s getting wider. We’re getting students who can’t access their school work or have trouble accessing online programming. We’re doing everything we can to connect 100% of our students.”
Equipment, she said, isn’t the problem. Akron is a one-to-one school system meaning every student is paired with a Chrome Book. However, getting them to every student, along with the resources they need to do their work, has been challenging.
“All our students have access to a computer or tablet,” she said. But she added, “they don’t always go home with it depending on the age group, so that was a struggle in having to go online so quickly [when schools closed] is to make sure the students who normally left Chrome Books in the school setting could get it at home.”
She works to find where homeless students are staying to get them the resources they need. “There’s definitely the digital divide that is preventing all our students from connecting,” said Cariño. “We have hot spots and we’re trying to connect with families who don’t have internet access, but that’s not the solution all the families need.”
Project Rise is working with Holy Trinity Lutheran Church who operates DLM Food & Resources. This food pantry and resource room serves Project Rise families directly.
Since the onset of the quarantine order, volunteers and church staff have delivered groceries and other resources to Project Rise families in doubled up situations.
At this time, they’re not accepting in-kind donations during, but monetary donations are being used toward extra food, hygiene supplies and cleaning supplies for families in need.
Donations can be made online.