School Doors Slammed on Kids

Used to Be No Home, No School…Commemorating the Progress

One of the many stories about the David vs. Goliath fight to get homeless kids into their schools. (Credit Aurora Beacon News)

We need something to celebrate — a victory for the little people if you will.

This, the 25th anniversary of the passage of a law opening school door for homeless kids, is worth celebrating.

Victories like this take lots of work, but when they happen, we remember and then build on our progress. Since the number of students identified as homeless continues to skyrocket, we can’t quit now!

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In Aurora, IL, way back in the summer of 1993, 3 kids were told they couldn’t return to their schools when the new school year started because they were homeless. (Here’s the back story.) They were staying at the shelter that I was running.

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Me in front of the Illinois Statehouse.

The mom was willing to fight. A rag-tag group of advocates, a pro bono lawyer, and the media piled on. We lost the initial court battle, but we won in the end with the first state law in the country specifying educational rights for homeless kids.

You might not realize that when students lose their homes they are at risk of losing their school. That represents a huge loss — stability being #1. It was a fight worth having, and our haphazard efforts led to a significant amendment of a federal law, the McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children Act, that solidified educational rights for millions of kids.

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It’s (sadly) a legitimate question.

I was there at the start of this quest, and I’m still in the mix of things with my nonprofit HEAR US. Speaking of quest, I’m prepping for a quest, the HEAR US 2020 VisionQuest starting this summer. I’ll traverse Rt. 20 on the northern part of the U.S. this fall and I-20 early in 2020.

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Here’s the link to the 2-min video explaining 2020.

My 2020 mission is to:

  • capture stories (film) of families/youth experiencing homelessness so I can create and distribute videos (here’s my video library)
  • conduct events — film screenings, presentations, etc., to raise awareness of this (still) invisible issue of kids and families without a place to call home.

What do I want from you?

Let’s not forget that the impossible can be possible with a little luck and a lot of hard work! It’s a lesson that will do us well in these troubled times. Sigh.

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How do you succeed in school when you have to worry about where you’ll sleep at night?

Founder/pres. HEAR US Inc., gives voice & visibility to homeless families & youth, ran shelters, advocate, filmmaker, author, 15 yrs. on US backroads.

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