The coronavirus pandemic has affected countless industries and people from all walks of life, from health care workers and wait staff to small business owners and teachers.
People have been fired, laid off, furloughed or had their hours cut. Another issue is people experiencing homelessness in the Historic Triangle.
While the issue of homelessness is far from new, there is recent data that shows one school district in the Historic Triangle has approximately three times the statewide average of homeless students: Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools.
At the Oct. 26 virtual joint meeting between WJCC Schools, Williamsburg City Council and the James City County Board of Supervisors, James Regimbal, principal of Fiscal Analytics, shared his comprehensive review and assessment of the Historic Triangle’s finances.
In his research, which included comparing real estate taxes, median household and costs per student, he discovered 2.3 percent of the student body at WJCC Schools were considered homeless compared to the statewide average of 0.7 percent.
So why do these two affluent localities with higher real estate taxes have a higher number of homeless students compared to the rest of the lower Peninsula, which includes Hampton and Newport News?
“Because the community has a high homeless population,” said Eileen Cox, spokeswoman for WJCC Schools. “That is the situation in our community.”
Cox said she feels it’s “unfortunate” people may not realize there is a homeless population in the community and the student body reflects that.
“We have students who live in hotels because they are homeless,” Cox said, adding students are living with their families sometimes with multiple generations.
Student services and social workers reach out to individual students serving them through the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
Cox said WJCC is providing various resorces for the homeless students from MiFis, WiFi hotspots used for virtual learning, and Grab and Go meals delivered to the hotels the students are staying at.
When asked if the district’s resources were low, Cox said in terms of the meals, the costs are covered through the WJCC’s Child Nutrition Services as well as other state and federal programs.
In addition, several community organizations such as food pantries, churches and libraries, have partnered with WJCC Schools since March.
“So there’s a number of resources that are coming from the community that support our students that are not direct academic resources,” she added.
As of Tuesday at 3 p.m. there are 154 homeless students at WJCC Schools being served through McKinney-Vento, Cox said.
Cox added the number of homeless students changes at any point in time, something she attributed to families transitioning to their homes and are no longer considered homeless.
“It’s a snapshot on any given day,” Cox said. “It might not be the same a month from now.”
In August, there were 416 homeless students at WJCC Schools “over the course” of the 2019-2020 school year.
YOU MIGHT WANT TO CHECK OUT THESE STORIES:
- Homeless kids and virtual learning: How local schools are addressing the need for food, resources during the coronavirus
- Rising COVID-19 cases in the region: WJCC is requiring all students to learn remotely after the holiday breaks
- Virtual learning: WJCC families can opt-out –– not into –– the virtual learning academy
- WJCC Schools report first student COVID-19 positive case; one class returns to remote learning
- COVID-19 scare: Warhill High School shuts down for two weeks