Summer is winding down, and children across the country are getting ready for another school year. For lots of kids, that means a new outfit for the first day, fresh unsharpened pencils and a perfect box of crayons, or a new backpack emblazoned with the latest cartoon character or superhero.
But for one population, back-to-school time can be a time of anxiety and stress for the whole family: the population of children in the United States who are homeless. Each year, 1.6 million American children go to sleep without a home of their own—and sadly, that number is rising.
Succeeding in school as a homeless child is tough. Algebra, anatomy and Animal Farm can be challenging enough without the stress of living on the street, jumping from shelter to shelter, or wondering whether your parents will be able find a job or provide for your basic needs. Unfortunately, these kids are three times more likely to drop out of school than kids with homes. Such a tragedy only feeds the cycle of illiteracy, poverty, and homelessness when these kids become parents themselves.
That’s why it’s imperative that we do everything we can to keep these kids in school. Education is the key to breaking the cycle and ensuring a better life.
In fact, we know that if children who are homeless can remain in school, they perform as well as their peers over time. These kids will prove themselves academically and socially if given the chance. And their families want to work and contribute positively to society too.
But they need help. They need H.E.L.P.: Feed the Children’s Homeless Education & Literacy Program (H.E.L.P.).
H.E.L.P. is one of the few programs of its kind in the nation. Since its inception in 2006, the program has focused on providing children who are homeless with backpacks and basic supplies they need in order to be successful in school.
We stuff these backpacks with some of life’s essentials as well as a bit of fun: school supplies, ready-to-eat food, hygiene items, and of course, books. We work with homeless liaisons and schools across the country who know the face of homelessness and can help us connect and respond. These local partners deliver the backpacks to the students who need them most. They make this delivery privately to help preserve the dignity of these young people.
The homeless liaisons who hand out the backpacks tell us that children treasure these gifts. In some cases, the backpack is the only thing these kids own. The backpacks aren’t just a leg up on the school year—they’re a tangible expression of hope.
Since the beginning of H.E.L.P. almost ten years ago, we’ve distributed more than 700,000 H.E.L.P. backpacks. In 2013 alone, Feed the Children provided 65,000 backpacks to kids without homes.
Can we deliver even more in 2015? You can help by sponsoring one or more backpacks from our catalog. Click here–it’s fast and easy.