It’s National Youth Homelessness Awareness Month, Let’s Step It Up With The STEP Program

“Sometimes people choose to leave home because unfortunately it’s a better choice.”

Every year more than 2 million children in the United States are at risk of homelessness.

“We had problems, we had no clothes or anything. It was very difficult.”

The STEP program in Traverse City helps students overcome housing barriers.

“Just because a student has a roof over his head doesn’t mean that he has what he needs here. The idea is that the children can participate fully, that nothing stands in their way and that they can be part of their school environment while their life situation is not so good, ”says Abigail Jordan.

Abigail Jordan is the district’s STEP coordinator for public schools in the Traverse metropolitan area.

Your job is to make sure the students have everything they need –

“When a student is eligible for our program, they usually live in transition, unstable housing, maybe inadequate housing … What we are really trying to do is make sure you have enough food for the household or make sure our children have pillows and blankets at night so they can sleep well and get to school, make sure they have transportation, ”says Jordan.

The STEP program supports children ages three to twenty, but their help doesn’t stop there.

When parents struggle to provide their families with essentials, the program * intervenes and connects families with the help they need.

“It will definitely remain very confidential. What are your needs, maybe we can help and if we can’t we find someone who can. You won’t hear me use the word homeless very often. We’re not here to name labels, you’re going through it so we’ll make sure we can help in the meantime. “

Most of the time, the perception of homelessness is determined by those who are most visible.

But often it’s not as obvious as it might seem, especially to students in school.

Download 1The program changes the lives of many students. Like the one we spoke to, who wanted to remain anonymous.

The anonymous student says, “We had to spend a few months in a mobile home with a friend of my mother’s … You helped my family when we had really tough times. Now I feel better thanks to the STEP program. “

“We are financed through grants and donations. The general way we can serve children is through our donors. “

And many of these donors are the community. Now that the colder weather is approaching, many shelters are full.

And all that the community can offer will change the lives of these students.

“There’s a trash can outside of Traverse City High School … the pantries are always looking for donations, and not just non-perishable ones, but also a way to refrigerate and freeze things.”

And as an important reminder –

“The more awareness also helps remove the stigma so people just know that it’s something that people are going through, it’s not what they are.”

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