Need Mental Health Help Fast? Call **ASK (star-star-2-7-5) from your cell phone or 1-800-939-5911.

Steve Smith Family Foundation Supports Homeless Youth

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — August 12, 2021 — 4 min read
The Steve Smith Family Foundation is working to shrink the education gap for students facing homelessness. There are currently close to 5,000 students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) who are homeless. This could include:
  • Living with a friend, relative, or others
  • Living in a motel/hotel
  • Living in an emergency shelter, transitional housing, or domestic violence shelter
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act ensures educational rights and protections for youth experiencing homelessness. It focuses on addressing challenges affecting their success in school. The Steve Smith Family Foundation helps CMS support this by providing programming.

Partnering With Hidden Valley Elementary School

The Steve Smith Family Foundation recently partnered with Hidden Valley Elementary School. This school has one of the highest populations of homeless students in CMS. Approximately 100 of their 875 students are considered homeless each year. The foundation plans to work with the school’s staff to identify students who are at risk and need support. The after-school program is set to begin the week after Labor Day. Hidden Valley principal Daniel Gray expressed his excitement for the partnership saying, “We’re looking to provide not just a care situation, but a teaching and learning situation.” He acknowledged that virtual learning severely impacted these children. He hopes this program will instill a new attitude toward school and life in them.

Four Main Focus Areas

The Steve Smith Family Foundation’s overall goal is to serve the kids holistically. They want to ensure all their needs are met. Their plan is to serve deeply, rather than just widely. They have four focus areas to achieve this:

Homework Completion and Tutoring

These students often don’t have access to the resources they need. One of those resources being after-school programming with specialized tutors. The foundation will help them complete their homework and focus on problem areas. They also provide technology for students to use to upload their school work.

Social and Emotional Learning

Most of the kids have suffered from some type of trauma. It could be domestic violence, drug abuse, or pandemic related. The foundation wants to help them learn to deal with their emotions and complex trauma. They partner with vendors to bring in counselors and create a curriculum for this.

Meal Distribution

Poverty and food insecurity are tied at the hip. Many of these kids rely on free meals at school. While schools were virtual, they were deprived of that. The foundation tries to ensure these children do not go hungry. They keep a snack pantry stocked so kids can grab something when they need to. They work with Bags for Hope to give backpacks full of snacks for the weekends. They are also identifying a feeding program to provide a third hot meal. This nourishment allows children to focus on school and develop other skills.

Enrichment Partnerships

The foundation also wants to provide special opportunities to these children to enrich their lives. The program is based at the old campus for Northside Academy. This gives them access to classrooms, playgrounds, and athletic facilities. Kids can play basketball and participate in dance and yoga classes. They work with vendors to provide STEM resources. They also plan to provide excursions that these kids would otherwise not get to experience.

Our Contributions

We pledged over $400,000 to help the foundation establish an afterschool program. Part of this money has already been used to purchase a new bus. This will allow them to transport the kids home and to field trip locations. Executive Director Gerard Littlejohn explained, “This money really gives us the start and foundation that we need.” They plan to use the funds to ensure they have the necessary resources. This includes keeping the food pantry stocked and paying for field trips. He also said, “This has to be programming that is sustainable and long-term. Donations are extremely important to making that happen.” If you are interested in donating, visit their website.

It takes a village

Both Gray and Littlejohn agree that homeless youth is an issue that requires community involvement. Just because it seems overwhelming, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something. Otherwise, we’re helping perpetuate social immobility. As Littlejohn put it, “If we don’t help surround kids with programming such as this, the gap will turn into a Grand Canyon.”

Was this article helpful?

Join our member newsletter

Subscribe