Support For Children Experiencing Homelessness
Find out how our Students In Transition (SIT) program supports youth and families experiencing homelessness through education and partnerships.
The mission of Students in Transition (SIT) is to implement the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which was put in place to ensure educational rights and protections for children and youth experiencing homelessness.
SIT envisions a county in which students living in transitional housing have the resources they need to regularly attend and succeed in both school and extracurricular activities.
Goals of SIT include providing services to a larger number of students by increasing our donation drives and through public awareness campaigns in Santa Cruz.
The Santa Cruz County Office of Education (SCCOE) has been serving the needs of homeless children and youth in our community since 1989. Funded through a small grant from the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, the SCCOE Students in Transition program began in 1995 and provides a myriad of services to homeless children, youth, and families; local school districts; and homeless service providers. Our service strategies have been identified as best practices in the USDE Planning and Evaluation Service publication – The Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program: Learning to Succeed. SIT made media headlines the summer of 2004 with the success of students enrolled in the Alternative Education’s Vista Transition Program, and also for the Stuff the Bus: School Supply Collection Drive.
The overall goal of the Santa Cruz County Students in Transition Program is to facilitate the enrollment of homeless children and youth into comprehensive or alternative public education programs, preschools and other academic enrichment programs; maintain their enrollment; and ensure academic and/or vocational success into a self-sufficient lifestyle. This is achieved by addressing the needs of the whole child and family through collaborative efforts with schools, social service providers, institutions of higher learning, private nonprofits, local business and industry, and the community at large.
In 2007 we identified more than 1,500 Santa Cruz County students as homeless; the year before we identified more than 3,000, a figure we still believe to be below the actual number of homeless students who attend our schools. A child is considered homeless or in transition when they lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. For more information about who qualifies as homeless, visit the SIT Resources and Links page.
The Students in Transition Program relies heavily on community donations to assist us in providing the additional supportive services needed by homeless children and youth to promote their success in school and future self-sufficiency. One hundred percent (100%) of our community donations are used to support the needs of homeless students. Items purchased and donated have included school supplies, backpacks, clothes, shoes, scholarships, and various other items needed by homeless children to promote their academic achievement and well-being.
SIT is in alignment with the SCCOE’s Superintendent’s Vision and Goals for 2007-2010. Our program provides “countywide support to all districts and schools in their efforts to provide a rigorous, standards-based education for all students, especially English learners and economically disadvantaged students” (Goal 2.1). We do this by collecting and distributing materials crucial to the success of needy students, including the provisioning of tutors and bus passes for economically disadvantaged students. We also accomplish this goal by serving as an informational hub (Goal 2.3) for the many liaisons, counselors, and principals who deal directly with students attending school and living in transitional environments. We offer training sessions to these liaisons, as well as informational materials to help reach and support disadvantaged students.
Every year, Santa Cruz County Office of Education and United Way of Santa Cruz team up to Stuff The Bus, gathering essential backpacks and school supplies to help prepare thousands of underserved youth for the new school year. We provide these backpacks and supplies to youth currently experiencing homelessness or other hardships.