BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — School can be difficult for children and young people, having to balance their studies, social life, and after school activities. But for some kids in our state, school can be difficult because they do not know where they are sleeping that night, or where their next meal is coming from. In fact, that is the case for more than 10,500 children and youth in West Virginia.
Marguerite Lawson is a child mentor and case manager at Pine Haven Center in Beckley.
“It can happen anytime. You never know when you’re going to be homeless. It can happen to anybody,” Lawson said.
Homelessness is a critical issue that West Virginia and the nation is facing. It is difficult for any one going through it, but especially for school aged children.
“When you get to school, you’re hungry, you’re tired. Worried about mom and dad. Where are they at for the day? Or your brother and sister. Things like that,” Lawson said.
But if worrying about the roof over your head is not enough, these students face the risk of being bullied if their classmates learn where they come from.
“They’re worried about being picked on for coming from the shelter or worried about if someone finds out they live here at the shelter.”
Pine Haven Center is a homeless shelter that houses people for about 30 to 40 days. They help people learn trade skills, find affordable housing, get medical help, and more. For the children who come in, they make sure they are getting the education to which they are entitled.
“No child is left behind. It’s not fair for the children. We work with the board of education so that no child or youth here…we make sure they have equal access to free education,” Lawson said.
They work with the Raleigh County Board of Education to ensure that the student has presentable clothes, a backpack, and lunch for the day. The shelter also offers programs that educate the children staying there, in case they have missed school in the past.
“It’s so they can learn social skills, life skills, It’s just important for them to be there so their minds can advance along with the other children,” Lawson explained.
U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Susan Collins, of Maine, just recently applauded the passage of their resolution that was passed by the senate unanimously. With that, they named November as National Homeless Children and Youth Awareness Month.