Newport reaches out to help large number of homeless schoolkids

NEWPORT, Ky. – In a school district where nearly one out seven of students is homeless, Newport Independent Schools are reaching out to help with food, support and hope.

Some 220 of Newport’s 1,500 students are living in shelters, cars, tents, with friends or family members while still trying to get an education. That impacts a student’s ability to concentrate in class and learn.

Newport Intermediate Principal Joshua Snapp says he sees that on students’ faces.

“The last thing I can think about is math or reading.  What I need to think about is survival,” Snapp said. “They’re coming to school to eat.  They’re coming to school for shelter, for structure, for support.”

School is where the children feel normal eight hours a day, but after that, it’s difficult on them.

 “They want stability and they don’t have that,” said a homeless mother of four.  “They think they’re alone, but there’s a lot of children going through the same thing. But they don’t know that.”

That’s where Kristy McNally, the homeless coordinator, comes in. McNally tries to dig into every individual situation.

“I want to hear their story,” McNally said. “I want to know the nitty-gritty because if I know the nitty-gritty then I can help the better.  I can do more.”

There’s a food pantry at the intermediate school and McNally personally delivers items to families in their homes or to high school students too shy to ask for help.

For the mother who talked to WCPO and her children, the assistance is lifesaving.

“If I didn’t have the help of the school — the help of the shelter — it would be hopeless. It would be a dead end,” she said, “I would pretty much be outside like a lot of people — and nowhere to go — and no reason to keep going.”

The bottom line is educating the community and raising awareness, McNally said.

“We have to empower,” McNally said. “We have to bring to a sense of hope.” 

Homelessness is a problem in other local urban school districts, too. Covington’s homeless rate for students is also 14 percent. It’s five percent for Cincinnati Public Schools and for Hamilton City Schools.

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