Funding Deadline Looms for Gas, Food, and Lodging for Homeless Students

For the last two months, Lori Menkedick and her family have called the Evergreen Inn in the Los Angeles area, situated just off Interstate-210, their home. Nearly three years have seen them rotating among similar establishments east of downtown.

Essentially, the $650 a week her husband earns from construction goes toward room rates, leaving the family relying on prepaid grocery cards from the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District to cover other basic necessities.

“Without that assistance, we might struggle to put food on the table some days,” Menkedick mentioned.

Prepaid gas station cards enable her to transport her 17-year-old daughter to school, whereas a T.J. Maxx gift card facilitated buying a dress for her daughter’s initial dance. Menkedick praised the district’s exceptional efforts in supporting families facing such severe circumstances.

However, critical services like these could be at risk soon. The additional $800 million from federal funds that schools nationwide have been relying on to address emergency needs for homeless students will be depleted by the end of this year.

As pointed out in a report released on Wednesday, advocates are urging lawmakers to extend the deadline for spending by another year. Once these funds are exhausted, many struggles lie ahead to continue aiding families in dire situations.

“I don’t believe many people, particularly in Washington, D.C., understand that when they allocated these funds in response to COVID, it was money we’ve long needed,” expressed Susanne Terry, the coordinator of homeless education services for the San Diego County Office of Education. “We don’t view it as COVID relief; it’s just relief.”

**California’s ‘most vulnerable’**

The funding arrived at a crucial juncture. Homelessness has been on the rise since the pandemic, reaching a new peak last year. Federal data shows a 16% increase in homeless families with children compared to 2022.

California, with the second-highest per capita homelessness rate after Washington, D.C., spent over $7 billion last year on about 30 different programs aiming to reduce homelessness, yet many of these initiatives did not sufficiently reach students.

Utilizing $960,000 from the relief program, Terry’s office appointed a specialist to assist shelter staff in adhering to federal regulations outlining services for homeless students.

The training was timely for Veronica Sandoval, the inaugural…

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