Back to school creates high demand in homeless shelters

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT)-- Going back to school is filled with excitement and nerves, but for some students, it's more about a regular meal, a warm place to stay and taking their minds off reality.

More than 400 students in School District 51 are homeless, but there is help out there.

HomewardBound of the Grand Valley says these past few weeks have been some of the busiest yet. That's because families are trying to get some sort of stability before their kids head back to school. So far they say they've helped more than 70 kids.

"We've seen an increase in families,” said Jesse Redmond, Director of Development at HomewardBound of the Grand Valley.

There are just over 400 homeless students in School District 51.

"We understand that being homeless is challenging enough, going to school is challenging enough, so whatever we can do to help them through that time so that going to school isn't such a challenge, because school should be a safe place for students,” said Catherine Foster with School District 51.

As the school year nears, those students are headed towards HomewardBound.

"We've seen an increase in families actually a 400 percent increase on the number of bed nights that families have here at this shelter,” said Redmond.

They say the summer months can be one of their busiest times of the year.

"It’s been extremely hot, there's also an extreme drought, the air quality also isn't so good so we get families coming in basically to avoid all of that. And also with school ramping back up, you start to see families looking for more resources and services,” said Redmond.

Working close to capacity every night, with at least five families at a time. Including a few newborns.

"I think the need is just rising, there's a very big income disparity and I don't think it's getting any better so the need is always there,” said Redmond.

The shelter is asking for school supply donations and the District has a special program called R.E.A.C.H., an advocacy group for homeless students.

"We make sure they get enrolled in school that they have transportation to and from school, that they have school supplies, you know their backpacks and clothing, some hygiene items, that they get on the free breakfast and lunch program and just access to community resources to get them through a tough time,” said Foster.

HomewardBound is expanding to help hundreds of more families. Their new Pathways family shelter will hopefully break ground end of this year or early 2019.

If you would like to donate supplies you can drop them off from 8 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. at their shelter on 2853 North Avenue.

For more details about donating click on the link to the right of this article.

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