Jim Cannon from CapCity Kids...

by Jim Cannon on August 31st, 2010

September’s guest post is from Jim Cannon of Cap City Kids. CapCityKids is a non-profit organization created to help children facing homelessness beat the odds and get a quality education. CapCityKids develops innovative programs and provides direct resources to help these students stay in school. We met Jim about two years ago, and it has been exciting to see how this non-profit has blossomed into a force of hope of kids who seem to have deck stacked against them. We’ll let Jim tell you more:

Homelessness is a lack of permanent housing resulting from extreme poverty, or, in the case of unaccompanied youth, the lack of a safe and stable living environment. Over 1.35 million children and youth experience homelessness in a year. Families are the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population in the United States, accounting for approximately 40 percent of those in homeless situations. Two trends are largely responsible for the rise in family homelessness over the past 15–20 years: a growing shortage of affordable rental housing and a simultaneous increase in poverty. There is an increasing gap between income and housing costs for low-income individuals. Children and youth in homeless situations often do not fit society’s stereotypical images. For example, many children who are homeless are very young; in fact, over 40 percent of children living in homeless shelters are under the age of five.

Natural disasters and other unexpected tragic circumstances place children and their families in very traumatic situations. Simply being in a homeless situation is often very traumatic. Trauma causes children and families to feel out of control. Their day-to-day existence becomes unpredictable and chaotic. They often feel that they are helpless to bring order and a semblance of “normalcy” into their own lives. It is of the utmost importance for them to feel a sense of safety, security, and community support.

Research shows that it is often not the trauma itself, but rather what occurs in response to the trauma, that determines the amount of time and completeness of recovery. School personnel are in the unique position of being able to help children and families make choices that bring a sense of control, address feeling needs, and achieves some sense of normalcy and routine in their lives.

Local homeless education liaisons are Local Educational Agency (LEA) staff responsible for ensuring the identification, school enrollment, attendance, and opportunities for academic success of students in homeless situations. Some of these activities may be performed by the local liaison himself or herself, while others are accomplished by coordinating the efforts of other staff. National evaluations have found that local liaisons are an important factor contributing to the success of a school district’s homeless education program; therefore, the McKinney-Vento Act now requires every LEA to appoint a local homeless education liaison and specifies his or her legal responsibilities. By linking students and their families to school and community services, local liaisons play a critical role in stabilizing students and promoting academic achievement at the individual, school, and district level.

CapCityKids began their collaboration with local (LEA) staff as a way to work directly with Homeless Children and to Piggyback off the existing infrastructure of AISD. CapCityKids develops innovative programs and provides direct resources in Central Texas to help these students stay in school. Administrative costs for our programs are absorbed by the Austin Independent School District. Thanks to this close partnership, 100% of donations go directly to the students. Donations not only provide basic school supplies, but also support campus based specialist for at-risk students, after-school tutoring at homeless shelters, and help connect kids with social services.

Our short-term goal is to help serve these families in crisis. Our long-term goal is to develop a proven set of “best practices” for supporting these children in their pursuit of an education. Another unique and innovative methodology pioneered by CapCityKids is the use of AISD’s existing administration, personnel and facilities for our programs to the maximum extent feasible. Partly as a result of this strategy, CapCityKids has no salaried staff or administrative overhead. Volunteer groups such as Austin New Church are critical to our continued success by provider a large donor base of volunteers for our Empowerment Academies and other events.

First, thank you Jim for taking the time to write this post, we are humbled to have the opportunity to serve with you all. If you have any desire to work with at-risk children, and help change the trajectory of their life, please email CapCityKids at: info@capcitykids.org.

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