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HOPE works to uplift homeless students in Vancouver Public Schools

FILE - Homeless camp

VANCOUVER, Wash. - Most kids are excited to get back to school, but it’s a really stressful time of year for students who are homeless. That’s why a program in Vancouver works year-round to make sure those kids don’t quit.

HOPE is a partnership between Vancouver Public Schools and local shelters in the community. Its goal is to meet the needs of all homeless families with school-aged children.

“They live in shelters. They live in tents. They live in campgrounds,” said Melissa Newhouse, a homeless liaison for Vancouver Public Schools.

Newhouse tracks those homeless students. She says the numbers are alarming; more than a thousand kids at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.

“We have a huge housing crisis. Our housing crisis has risen and it’s one of the worst in the country,” said Newhouse.

Newhouse works with local shelters and directly with homeless families to give students what they need to stay in school.

“We have tents. We usually have a stack of tarps as well, because some of these families will live right around this neighborhood,” Newhouse said.

Her challenge starts with finding those students.

“There is a horrible stigma to these students. A lot of them don’t like to talk about it. A lot of them hide it from their friends and even their teachers, which makes it harder for us to even identify them,” Newhouse said.

When they do, HOPE lifts the burden by setting them up with the small stuff.

“We have sweatshirts, underwear, jammies, we have all sorts of things,” said Newhouse.

They also take care of the big worries that would be crushing for most adults.

“If there's sports or any other after school activities, we provide the funds to do that so that they can participate as well,” said Newhouse, “We want these students to succeed. We want the removal of any barrier that would prevent them from success and we want them to graduate from school.”

Hope assistance is available to all Vancouver Public School Students and their families.

For more information or to find out if you can help, click here.

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