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Be the change 

Reauthorization of the McKinney-Vento Act can help combat a rise in the population of homeless children

California ranks 48 out of 50 in terms of its identified population of homeless children. That makes it one of the states with the highest such population. In San Luis Obispo County, there are currently 3,774 homeless individuals. Of these, 49 percent are children. In 2014, SLO County identified 2,210 homeless students; 209 were in kindergarten and another 209 in the second grade. Statistics show that 1,847 of the homeless in our county are children 10 years old and younger. These facts and statistics are why The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 and reauthorization of the McKinney-Vento Act now referred to as Title X, must be supported. 

The reauthorization will ensure that our homeless children are supported in an educational setting. Title X recognizes the many challenges homeless students face; it claims it will ensure that homeless students have the necessary support to enroll, attend, and succeed in school. Title X will specifically ensure school district liaisons have the necessary time and training to fulfill their responsibilities. They will work to improve provisions specifically designed to increase school stability for homeless students. Most importantly, Title X will ensure that homeless youth have access to all services provided by the state and school districts, including charter and magnet schools; summer school; career and technical education; advanced placement courses; and online learning opportunities. 

The San Luis Obispo County Office of Education currently employs a program coordinator and a community liaison who work in collaboration with the San Luis Obispo County Department of Social Services to ensure that homeless youth in our community have equal access to resources available to them. The 5 Cities Homeless Coalition also directly addresses the needs of the homeless population in the southern end of our county. The homeless coalition supports the coordination of comprehensive services to help stabilize and move the homeless into housing. 

The Food Bank Coalition also works to address the needs of the homeless in our county. In 2011, the Food Bank Coalition distributed 6 million pounds of food to local agencies. This resource then directly served the homeless population through food distributions and soup kitchens. CAPSLO, a local nonprofit, offers case-management and a variety of services through their two shelters, Maxine Lewis Memorial and Prado Day Center. 

If there continues to be an increase in our county’s homeless population, we must become active participants in the decisions made to assist this population and the solutions to help them out of homelessness. 

In order to become a change agent we must educate ourselves on the issues at hand: This is the purpose of my opinion piece. As a master of social work student at the University of Southern California, I aim to share a bit of the knowledge I have gained in my social welfare course this semester. As a member of this community, my purpose is to continuously seek platforms that provide opportunities to become educated and opportunities to educate. 

I solely believe that when you break the cycle of homelessness for a child and provide them with an education and opportunity to succeed, it is most likely that they will do just that, succeed. Let us not allow the young child standing on a street corner to become the adult standing on a street corner. With enough support and resources in our community, we can provide homeless youth with an opportunity to be successful. I stand behind the idea that education is the key to success and the beauty of this is that this key is available to everyone. With this, as a member of a community with growing numbers of homelessness, we should consider supporting The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 and the Reauthorization of The McKinney-Vento Act. It is my belief that every child should have and deserves to have the opportunity to be successful, to follow their dreams, and to accomplish their personal goals. Supporting The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 and Title X will grant those opportunities and many more.

Cindy Monterrosa is a first-year master of social work student at the University of Southern California, School of Social Work. She resides in Templeton with her family and three dogs. Cindy has a passion for social welfare, policy, and advocacy. She enjoys giving back to the community on various platforms including those that support mental health awareness. When Cindy is not working or studying, you can find her traveling, hiking, and enjoying all the natural beauty this county has to offer. Contact her through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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