The Valley Patriot publisher Tom Duggan hosted Arlin Santiago on the Paying Attention! Television Program earlier this month. Santiago is the “Educational Stability Specialist” for the Lawrence Public Schools. She appeared on the program to talk about what the schools are doing to help foster children and homeless children who are students in the system.
First, what does an Educational Stability Specialist do?
“What I do is work with homeless and foster students. When a family comes in we can provide to them different types of resources [and give them] information where they can get the help they need.
When asked how many homeless kids and foster kids are in the Lawrence Public Schools, Santiago revealed that the Lawrence Public Schools service 258 homeless students every day.
What are some of the services that you provide to them?
When we have a family that is in need of shelter we can direct them to services through the City of Lawrence and others. We refer them to the department of housing and community development and they try to put them in a shelter. Their department usually can provide home-based programs. In other cases we will refer them over to the Family Resource Center, which provides a wide range of services for these families. They are located at 530 Broadway. For unaccompanied youth … these are students who are 18 and older, and no longer under their parent’s guardianship, and sometimes become homeless. We send them to Children Friends and Family and Youth Forward. They provide a variety of services including providing mentors and they are located at 15 Union St. in Lawrence.”
“Sometimes we have families that become homeless due to domestic violence, for those type of families we refer them over to the YWCA.”
“We have an in-house program as well, where we work directly with families. It’s called the Lawrence Working Family Initiative. We help the families with job search assistance, support to develop an action plan, and coaching for family support as well.”
“There is a new shelter that just opened called House of Mercy. They are open from 7am to 5pm. They have showers, a place where you can get haircuts, and supply clothing to the homeless families.”
Asked if the Lawrence Schools have programs for families of addicts she said not but added, “if a family does come forward in regard to a crisis we can help refer them as well.
Asked if they had students addicted or programs for students who are addicted she said she didn’t know of any.
“We also provide information on meal sites where they are able to get some groceries and warm meals. We provide uniforms and clothing for the students.”
Santiago said that the schools received donations of coats, hats, and gloves from an organization called Cradles and Crayons.
“We also received a huge donation from an organization run by Dan Ploufe and Mario Alvarez. Every year they do this holiday mission and they were able to donate to 63 of our students; winter boots, coats, and backpacks. That was just amazing,” she said.
What we need in Lawrence is more affordable housing and more local shelters.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The City of Lawrence doesn’t spend one penny on shelter for the homeless. Special thank you to David Hernandez for making the interview possible.