WHAT: Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF) has been awarded a $235,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to initiate a pilot Mobile Learning Program for families who are experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. The program will complement its existing after-school and summer programs in supportive housing agencies for children, Kindergarten through 8th Grade. The pandemic has exacerbated the challenges for those with housing insecurity. The Mobile Learning initiative is a way to meet families where they are living – be it with friends or extended family. Over 7 in 10 housing insecure families do not live in shelters; most are bouncing from home to home. The pilot Mobile Learning Program is designed to expand our ability reach more families, by offering programs in a home-based or community setting that will encourage literary, social/emotional development and healthy parent child interaction. The grant will enable us to hire a new staff member with education expertise, who will coordinate a range of services to families that may include literacy, speech pathology, STEAM programs and human service and mental health referrals. We will partner with families, providing encouragement and resources as they advocate for their child’s educational success.
WHY: There are over 3100 children and youth in the Allegheny County who are experiencing homelessness. Among this population, academic success and literacy rates are much lower than that of stably-housed students, due in part to the trauma that homelessness and other family stressors cause.
The pandemic made life more difficult for students, especially those experiencing homelessness. Families already under severe economic pressures faced increasing hurdles brought on by remote learning, and fear of illness. We helped one mother who was struggling with logging in for her child’s zoom instruction. Even though our programs were remote, one of our staff went to her home at a hotel, to give a personal, hands-on guidance and necessary educational materials. Both the mother and daughter were so grateful, and it underscored for us the importance of meeting families where they are—in the larger community.
The pilot Mobile Learning program is a new way to reach families to address learning loss and give families and our school partners additional support when it is critical. HCEF Executive Director Carlos T. Carter states, on behalf of the board and staff of HCEF: “We are so honored and grateful for this show of support from Richard King Mellon, for their commitment to making our region a strong community for children, and for their show of confidence in HCEF to make an impact with Mobile Learning. This was one of our dreams before Covid-19, and now it is becoming a reality, as we all re examine the most effective ways to impact large systems and truly improve lives.”
The mission of the Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF) is to advance the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness in Southwest Pennsylvania, guiding them to be productive, empowered citizens.
For 23 years, HCEF has built a track record in raising awareness for this unique population and in delivering targeted programs and services. These services include tutoring, mentorship, scholarships, positive mental health curriculum, college and career planning, backpack drives, and cultural and STEAM enrichment opportunities. HCEF also facilitates and collaborates with homeless organizations and providers to advocate for the unique needs of youth experiencing homelessness.