DAVIS COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – Did you know that 1,200 students in Davis County School District are homeless?
And Jodi Lunt, Director of the Davis Education Foundation, wants you to know something about them.
“They exist, and they are among us. They look and act and need the same things that children who aren’t homeless need. They look like our children. They act like our children; they have the same desires as our children. And, unfortunately, life has thrown at them, some barriers that they alone can’t remove. And they need those of us who have capacity to help remove those barriers so that they can reach their ultimate potential,” she shares.
That’s why the Davis Education Foundation has repurposed an existing area on Clearfield High School’s campus as a Teen Center for homeless youth. And the foundation is currently seeking donations to build three more. The three proposed centers will be at Woods Cross High School, Northridge High School, and Mountain High School.
The centers aims to provide wraparound services for students, Lunt says. They include washer and dryer facilities, microwaves, refrigerators, showers, food, and anything students need to maintain hygiene. This includes blow dryers, curling irons, shampoo, conditioner, towels, and clean underwear and socks.
Students can take packs of food with them or get a hot meal at the center. But these aren’t the only needs the center meets. They also provide academic advisement services, social or behavioral counseling, and help filling out things like FAFSA forms or government paperwork, Lunt explains. The foundation even has a goal to provide telemedical, dental, and vision services to students in the Fall.
“We at the Davis Education Foundation have taken this on as one of our projects this year to ensure that we are removing barriers to learning for students. We know that if a student isn’t fed and clean and comfortable and have their basic essentials met, learning isn’t optimized,” Lunt explains.
“So, if we can optimize their situation, remove the barriers, they stay in school and graduate. We can move them to post-secondary training and ensure that they have an opportunity for full success in life.” she adds.
Out of the more than 1,200 students on record in the district facing homelessness, 300 are high school students, Lunt says. “I do believe it is surprising in our community to know that that is that prevalent.”
The Clearfield Teen Center opened in April and since then, students have been able to benefit from it. It will also be open 10 hours a week during the summer. The center will be open to student use from noon to 2 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, as well as from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Tuesday and Friday.
“They’ve been very thrilled at the number of students coming in and out, and we are for our very first summer,” Lunt states.
Currently, the funding to maintain the center comes from Davis School District and individuals donors. The school district also contributes to staffing. Donations of consumables come from the community through grant writing and generous donors, Lunt says.
The Davis Education is looking for corporate and personal donors to help build the additional centers. They will also use a portion of funds from their Spring Fundraiser Gala and reaching out to private and public agencies to help with funding, she explains.
Those interested in donating to the cause can do so at dsdgive.net.
The public can also donate to help purchase basic essentials such as toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, laundry detergent, as well as new socks and underwear and food items.
Homeless youth face many struggles, Lunt shares.
“They often lacked an adult, an advocate. I believe it was Eric Shipp that once said that every child is one caring adult away from from a success story. That is the thing our children in crisis often need – a caring, engaged adult. Oftentimes they just need a place,” she says.
“I think many of us take for granted a hot shower, clean clothing, a place to do homework without distraction, a place to sleep. Those are the types of very simple things that if you weren’t sure where your next shower was coming from, or where you were going to launder your clothes, or how you were going to have a meal, or where you are going to sit down and do your homework…. How do I print a an assignment that I do when I don’t have access to a home printer. Very simple things that many of us take for granted as a given in our life. And if you had all those basics removed and you had to fight for those every day, it makes some of the more complex things a little more difficult.”
Lunt says she has gratitude for those who helped these students through their contributions.
“I am humbled and I’m impressed to live in Davis County who truly cares about their youth,” she says.