Margaret R. Schuelke, Executive Director, Project Community Connections, Inc., Decatur, GA:
“Inspired by a mother and son struggling with homelessness, five well-established Atlanta organizations joined forces in 2010 to address the growing number of homeless families with school-aged children. Educational institutions and homeless service providers have historically referred families back and forth for resources but rarely worked hand-in-hand to help meet the needs of students experiencing homelessness.
These organizations cross the boundaries between educational and homeless/housing programs to improve student and family outcomes while leveraging resources and eliminating redundant efforts.
The partners standardized a referral form, cross-trained in intake criteria and procedures, and thoughtfully built a culture of trust and cooperation. As a result, a mother and her children can move from emergency shelter into one of its transitional homes, earn income in temporary positions while looking for permanent work, receive educational support services for her children through the school system, and benefit from housing search services and financial assistance leading to permanent housing. Together, the collaborative partners are creating whole, stable lives for families with school-age students struggling against homelessness.
The success of this collaboration is largely dependent on maintaining a streamlined, efficient referral process for homeless children and youth to access homeless services. That’s why I support the Homeless Children and Youth Act. We have a proven track record and skilled professional staff who are dedicated to serving and housing families, children, and youth who are extremely vulnerable and in need of assistance. We have the tools to assess specific homeless situations to know which homeless families and youth are most in need of housing and services. Passage of the Homeless Children and Youth Act would allow us to maintain and enhance a streamlined and efficient referral process and put these families back into a stable living situation.”
Watch a video about DeKalb’s Kids Home Collaborative.