Olympia's Homeless or At-Risk Students

From civicintelligence

Prepared by Laura Minor

Submitted to Douglas Schuler

Civic Intelligence: Theory and Practice

Case Study: Homeless Education

Week 8, Wednesday, 5/18/2011


The main hope of a nation lies in the proper education of its youth. ~ Desiderius Erasmus
Homelessness is becoming increasingly evident in today’s society. Much of the homeless population is made up of a communities youth. Homeless children are amongst the most vulnerable in our country. In our local community, the Olympia school district had four hundred fifty seven documented students that had no place to call home in the 2009-2010 school year. (OSPI - 2009-10 Data Collection)

What’s being done to ensure the education of our local communitie's youth?
As a community, are we doing our part to ensure the strength of our nation?


  • Orientation - describes the purpose, principles and perspectives that help energize an effective deployment of civic intelligence.
  • Organization - refers to the structures, methods and roles by which people engage in civic intelligence.
The Welcome Room is a federally-funded program, located at Madison Elementary School in Olympia’s Eastside neighborhood. The program is designed to support students who are at-risk or experiencing homelessness. They continually seek ways to remove all barriers to children’s enrollment, attendance and academic achievement in school, as well as offer an array of programs and enrichment classes to enhance a student’s education and life. Their goal is to meet each student’s needs and ensure success for every child every day. ~ OSD, Welcome Room Brochure 2011
  • Engagement - refers to the ways in which civic intelligence is an active force for thought, action, and social change.
The Welcome Room requests community involvement. It is critical to the students and program. They strongly encourage the community to get involved with fundraisers and donate items from the Wish List to help the students and families in need.
They hold monthly fundraisers, such as canned food, toilet paper, umbrella and penny drives.
The Wish List Items include...
    • Miniature First Aid kit
    • Laundry detergent/quarters
    • Deodorant
    • Toothbrush/toothpaste
    • Head lice kits/combs
    • Combs/brushes
    • Soap
    • Shampoo/conditioner
    • Disposable razor
    • Panty liners
    • Lotion
    • Gently used children/teen clothes and shoes
    • Toys/books

  • Intelligence - refers to the ways that civic intelligence lives up to its name.
The Welcome Room offers the following programs to help remove many of the barriers homelessness causes, with regard to cultivating our youths education.
    • A before-school group specifically designed to reduce stress and prepare children for the school day.
    • Tutoring, academic support and academic monitoring.
    • After school Homework Club and enrichment programs including meals, field trips and other activities.
    • Guidance with community resources.
    • School supplies and clothes for students as they need them.
    • Breakfast and lunch.
    • Preschool program for four and five year-olds.
  • Products & Projects - refers to some of the outcomes, both long-term and incremental, that civic intelligence might produce.
The Welcome Room offers support and counseling to assist parents in meeting their childrens needs.
Hopefully by educating the youth, they will be provided with the opportunity to break the cycle of homelessness and contribute productively to their communities.
  • Resources - refers to the types of support that people and institutions engaged in civic intelligence work need.

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1986 is a federal law that provides money for homeless shelter programs.

Washington State's Role

The McKinney-Vento Act is a conditional funding act—the federal government gives grants to states and, in return, the grantee states are bound by the terms of the act. If a state chooses not to accept federal funds for these purposes, it does not have to implement the act.
To implement the McKinney-Vento Act, the state must designate a statewide homeless coordinator to review policies and create procedures, including dispute resolution procedures, to ensure that homeless children are able to attend school.

School Districts' Role

Local school districts must appoint Liaison contacts to ensure that school staff are aware of these rights, to provide public notice to homeless families (at shelters and at school) and to facilitate access to school and transportation services.

Communities Role

To help programs like the Welcome Room by donating items on the wish list or participating in the monthly fundraisers.

Community resources for students who are homeless ~ OSD, Welcome Room Brochure 2011

  • 2-1-1 – This is a telephone number that provides information on resources and services in the community, such as for physical & mental health, employment support, utility shutoff & eviction notices, etc.
  • Friendship Fund – Funds can be spent on needy students for clothes and school supplies. Contact Sarah Greenwell at (360) 596-6313 for more information.
  • WEA Children’s Fund – Members of the Washington Education Association can be reimbursed up to $100/year/student for clothes and school supplies. Please contact your child’s teacher or school counselor for information.
  • Shoe bank – The Masonic Temple has a shoe giveaway program for students and their younger siblings in the 3 area school districts: Olympia School District, North Thurston County & Tumwater. For a shoe voucher, please contact your school counselor or Sarah Greenwell at 596-6313.
  • Food Backpack Program – families are able to bring home food packets on Fridays for the weekend. Please contact your school counselor or Sarah Greenwell at (360) 596-6313 if you are interested in your child participating.
  • The South Puget Sound Reading Foundation and First Book offer free books to needy students. Generally, these books are appropriate for grades K-8.
  • The Family Support Network Community has a resource guide available online at [http://homelessadvocacy.wikispaces.com]. The Family Support Network can be reached by calling (360) 528-8999.


What homeless children need most is a home. While they are homeless, however, they need the security and stability of school. An education affords them the opportunity to escape poverty. The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” is a strong statement for Civic Intelligence. It is up to each community to provide their children with the fundamental building blocks to ensure the success of the nation.
Washington State has chosen to accept the terms of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1986. The Olympia school district (OSD) is a partner in that agreement. Through programs like the Welcome Room the OSD is providing homeless youth the opportunity to escape poverty and build their communities.

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  • The weakness I see in the organization is a lack of exposure. I was unaware of their program until I started looking for organizations to help our homeless youth. Since it is operated through the Olympia School District, I'd like to see flyers sent home with students to promote awareness for the organization.