PITTSBURGH, Pa. – On Friday, May 4 2012, the Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF) hosted its third annual Summit focusing on the educational needs of children and youth experiencing homelessness.
“In Pennsylvania in 2010 there were 31,386 homeless children, more than the entire University of Pittsburgh student body,” explains Dr. Ralph da Costa Nunez, President and CEO of the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness. “Some of these homeless families are living in shelters. Many more are in motels, and doubled up, living two or more families in an overcrowded apartment. This instability would make it hard for anyone to learn.”
In an effort to move beyond providing educational programming, Senator Wayne Fontana, HCEF, and many others have dedicated themselves to assist in the passage of the Pennsylvania State Senate Bill 157, which passed by a unanimous vote of 44-0 on April 30, 2012. While the bill will need to clear the Pennsylvania House before becoming law, the progress is substantial for promoting awareness of the educational rights of children experiencing homelessness.
“As a society, we owe it to all our youth, to make sure no child slips through the cracks and that they have every opportunity for an education. The Homeless Children’s Education Fund has focused on the plight of the homeless children in our Commonwealth. That’s why I am proud to have sponsored SB 157, which will create a task force to examine the educational needs and status of homeless children in Pennsylvania,” said Pa State Senator Wayne Fontana.
Through their annual Summit gatherings HCEF is committed to increase awareness of and to advocate for the educational challenges faced by children and youth experiencing homelessness (i.e. transportation, identification, and enrollment). Speakers and participants at Summit III highlighted challenges, best practices and initiatives to help combat barriers these children face, as well as focusing the devastating effects that poverty and homelessness can have on learning and brain development.
Summit III speakers included national, state, and local experts on homelessness as well as government, community, social service and educational leaders:
- Anti-Bullying Association, Sto-Rox High School
- Dr. Stephen Bagnato, Early Childhood Partnerships/University of Pittsburgh
- Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County Executive
- Wayne Fontana, Pa State Senator
- David J. Hickton, U.S. Attorney (Western Region of Pa)
- Terrence Moses, Pittsburgh Technical Institute Student
- Dr. Ralph da Costa Nunez, Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness
- Denise Ross, Prince George’s County Public Schools (Maryland)
- Dr. Michele Sellitto, Pa Department of Education
During Summit III new statistics from the PA Department of Education as well as facts and figures from local sources and the U.S. Census about the status of housing and educational stability for children and youth experiencing homelessness were shared, confirming a growing need for local government, school superintendents and members of our community to continue collaborative efforts to better serve our most vulnerable population.
“Since last year’s Summit, we have seen significant progress as a result of our outreach efforts through the Homeless Education Network, an initiative of HCEF,” says Bill Wolfe, Executive Director, Homeless Children’s Education Fund. “Funding and programming have both increased, allowing us to intervene into the lives of even more children in homeless situations. This year, we were able to start a highly active campaign aimed towards identification and bettering educational resources for children and families experiencing homelessness.”
For more detailed information regarding Summit III or to receive speaker remarks or photography from the event, please contact Meredith Matthews at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-224-6070.
Since 1999, the Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF), a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, has been dedicated to providing advocacy, community engagement, and direct service programs that support the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness. For more information, visit www.homelessfund.org.