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Shadow of homelessness hangs over Bay Area students

Shadow of homelessness hangs over Bay Area students

Maddie Godoy doesn’t have a lot time for homework. When she will get residence from faculty, the 11-year-old babysits for her little brothers. She typically makes dinner, scrambled eggs or scorching canine, no matter is within the fridge. She performs disguise and search with Iker, 2, within the household’s small condo earlier than getting him to mattress. Within the morning, she makes positive 7-year-old Steven doesn’t miss his bus.

Maddie does no matter she will so her mom can get extra sleep and be capable of work extra hours. The sixth-grader worries they may run out of cash once more. The final time that occurred, earlier this yr, the household lived in a storage for six months. This time may be worse.

“If we get kicked out again we have nowhere to go,” says Maddie, the sunshine in her eyes clouding with worry. “I’m worried.”

Homelessness is the shadow that hangs over Maddie and lots of others in Ravenswood Metropolis Elementary Faculty District, which has one of the very best proportion of students categorised as homeless within the Bay Area.

Virtually 23 % of the East Palo Alto district’s students have been thought-about homeless sooner or later through the 2017-2018 faculty yr, in line with knowledge from the California Division of Schooling. In comparison with a homeless scholar fee of lower than .21 % simply down the street in Palo Alto, Ravenswood is a stark illustration of the wrestle working class households face in a single of the costliest area’s of the nation. It’s a pocket of poverty amid an enclave of affluence. Solely a tiny district of 12 students in Sonoma County has a better fee of students thought-about homeless within the nine-county Bay Area.

Ravenswood Center Faculty students take heed to their instructor throughout a bodily schooling class at Ravenswood Center Faculty in East Palo Alto, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area Information Group) 

Faculties all through California outline students as homeless in the event that they lack a hard and fast, satisfactory, night-time residence. Meaning students like Maddie, whose household stayed in a storage, qualify as homeless, together with these whose households keep in automobiles, tents, motels, trailer parks, or public areas and people who share homes with others as a result of they’ve misplaced their very own shelter. Whereas different students their age are occupied with play dates and piano recitals, these students are sometimes apprehensive about the place they’ll sleep at night time.

Maddie has few certainties in her life however she is aware of she doesn’t need to go to a homeless shelter. One of her greatest associates at college, Mayra, stayed in a single and it made her unhappy. Maddie by no means complains about her circumstances. She is aware of how robust it’s for her mom, who makes $14 an hour cleansing and prepping meals at a Palo Alto cafe, to maintain a roof over their heads. The household moved right into a one-bedroom condominium in East Palo Alto just some months in the past.

“Every night when we get home the first thing I do is tell my mother thank you,” says Maddie, tears welling up in her eyes, “because I know she works so hard for us.”

Sixth-grader Madelyn Godoy, 11, research at Ravenswood Center Faculty in East Palo Alto, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area Information Group) 

The statistics was much more grim within the Ravenswood district. Two years in the past, its scholar homeless price was 30 %. The quantity fluctuates wildly as youngsters transfer out and in of secure housing. Many youngsters double up with different households, browsing couches or dwelling in garages. Some camp out in tents in backyards.

“You can’t imagine how hard it is for our families,” says Ravenswood Center Faculty principal Ryan Hughes. “A lot of them feel helpless and trapped in their situation.”

Ravenswood Center Faculty students wait in line for lunch in East Palo Alto, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area Information Group) 

By necessity, the district and its faculties present extra than simply academics and lecture rooms during which to study. Since many students come to high school with empty stomachs, Maddie’s faculty — Ravenswood Center — serves three meals a day to all students, plus snacks. It additionally has a meals financial institution and washers and dryers for households who have to do laundry. And the district supplies transportation to students, even once they have to maneuver into homeless shelters in different close by cities. Maddie takes the bus, and eats the varsity meals, although she’d quite prepare dinner her personal.

Ana Maria Pulido, the president of the Ravenswood faculty board, poses for a photograph at Ravenswood Center Faculty in East Palo Alto, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area Information Group) 

“We aren’t just concerned with what happens in the classroom,”  says faculty board president Anna-Maria Pulido, who grew up within the neighborhood. “Coming to school in dirty clothes can make kids feel ashamed.”

Like many Ravenswood mother and father, single mom Erika Godoy, 29, is struggling to maintain her household afloat in Silicon Valley. She emigrated right here 4 years in the past, fleeing violence in El Salvador, and works exhausting to make a brand new life, waking up at three day by day to get to her job. Typically, she works rather a lot, different days it’s just some hours.

“It’s really hard,” admits Godoy in Spanish, as her daughter interprets. “I barely have a few minutes to eat and a few hours to sleep.”  Within the background, Steven and Iker struggle over an “Ant Man” comedian guide. “I worry about my kids a lot. My kids deserve better.”

She is grateful to be out of the storage. Having a kitchen, the place she will make hen soup on a chilly night time, seems like a luxurious. However she is determined for a second job. She isn’t making sufficient now to pay her payments. Already, her cellphone will get turned off regularly. Her lease is $1,900, which is under common for a one-bedroom in East Palo Alto, in line with RentCafe. However together with her wages, she will by no means get forward. “I never have enough. Every time I cash my check, it’s gone.”

Even with all its flaws, just like the deserted purchasing carts and shattered glass strewn across the courtyard the place the youngsters play, that is the most effective residence they’ve had in a very long time. Requested what she is going to do in the event that they lose this condo, Erika breaks down.

“I don’t know,” she says between sobs. “I just don’t know.”

Ravenswood Center Faculty English instructor Kyle Tana helps a scholar in her class in East Palo Alto, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area Information Group) 

Right here within the shadow of Fb and Stanford College, poverty is the norm. About 89 % of Ravenswood students certified at no cost and reduced-price lunch in 2017. Greater than half have been English learners, in line with state knowledge.

“East Palo Alto used to be one of the few areas left where the working poor could live. Now they are being pushed out by gentrification,” says Pulido.

Officers say the district’s homeless statistics could also be underestimated as a result of many mother and father are afraid to confess the reality. Some worry deportation, others fear about Baby Protecting Providers.

“The rise of Silicon Valley has fueled a lack of affordable housing,” says Leanne Wheeler, on the state’s Division of Schooling. “It’s the divide between the haves and the have nots. The working poor have fallen down hard.”

Homelessness or the instability of shifting out and in of momentary options can hijack the course of a toddler’s improvement, specialists say. Maddie works exhausting to remain on prime of her homework and her instructor says she’s doing nicely, one of the higher students in her class. Lately, she needed to re-take some math checks as a result of she hadn’t had time to review sufficient.

“The trauma of not having a home is real,” says Christina Endres, program specialist on the Nationwide Middle for Homeless Schooling. “Homeless kids have higher rates of anxiety and depression. They also experience very high rates of special education needs.”

Ravenswood has taken its share of criticism over poor check scores and its declining enrollment.  Final yr, 61 % of the district’s students failed to satisfy math requirements on the SBAC achievement check, based on the state. In Palo Alto, simply 7 % failed to satisfy these requirements. The instructor’s union started calling for the superintendent’s resignation final yr. This spring, regardless of opposition from some students and East Palo Alto’s mayor, the board renewed her contract and elevated her wage to $192,814.

“It’s easy to judge us from afar. We may not have the same test scores as Palo Alto schools, but the reality is with so many students being homeless,” says Pulido, “that’s just not possible.”

Ravenswood officers say they measure success by a special yardstick.

“Yes, we have students who are super high needs but we also have kids who are working their butts off,” says prinicipal Hughes. “If we can show them that they can be whatever they want, that’s important.” 

Even on this district, some students are so stung by the stigma of their housing conditions that they maintain it secret.

“It can be hard to fit in and make friends,” says Endres. “It means there are no sleepovers, there are no birthday parties, the things you take for granted as part of childhood.”

Maddie informed her pals what was occurring when her household was staying within the storage and the way it made her really feel. Since many of them had been homeless themselves, they took it in stride.

“They told me it was fine,” she says. “They said nobody has it easy.”

Of their world, homelessness is just not a disaster. It’s half of life.

The academics bear a lot of the burden for educating students who don’t know the place they’re going to sleep that night time. Dedication is excessive at Ravenswood however so is burnout.

“You can’t teach someone their multiplication tables when they are dealing with homelessness,” says Endres. “If they don’t have a sense of security, why would they care about math?”

Sixth-grader Mayra, 11, is helped by her English instructor, Kyle Tana, at Ravenswood Center Faculty in East Palo Alto, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area Information Group) 

Kyle Tana teaches much more than sixth grade English to Maddie and her classmates. If her students are hungry, she has bananas stashed within the classroom. If they’re drained, she lets them put their heads down and take a nap.

“You have to meet them where they are,” says Tana.  “My door is always open. If they need a place to talk, if they need a place to cry, they are always welcome in here.”

They will additionally go to the faculty’s drop-in middle, the place youngsters experiencing trauma can play ping-pong, speak or simply sit quietly.

“It can be real hard out there, in here you can just be a kid,” says Mele Lau, who runs the drop-in middle. “A lot of kids wear a mask and pretend they are OK. But we see a lot of dark thoughts and suicidal ideation.”

She recollects one 11-year-old who solely had time to do her homework on the bus. At night time, she took care of youthful siblings. Within the morning, her mother and father left for work round four, placing her in cost.

“She was exhausted. She started to think, if this is all there is to life, I’m tired of it,” says Lau sadly. “She wanted out.”

Maddie has the grit to maintain doing her greatest. She’s an avid reader and her favourite topic is math. Tana says Maddie is a pure chief. However she’s typically anxious.

“I try to tell myself, it’s OK, nothing bad is going to happen, concentrate on your school work,” she says. “But then I worry. What if something bad does happen? What if we have no place to live?”

House lives could also be chaotic, however as soon as students get contained in the classroom, Tana units the bar excessive.

“You may have a 6th grader reading at a kindergarten level, but you have to push them forward,” says Tana. “You’ve got to have high expectations and then the kids will push themselves to meet them.”

Maddie is decided to make her method on the planet.

“I know I need to get a job and keep it,” she says.

Knowledge reporter Kaitlyn Bartley contributed to this report.