One aspect that HAND wanted to look into was how housing related to schools and more importantly, the students. I went to Hinkle Creek Elementary and spoke with counselors Lynn Cook and Donna Brooks. From our meeting I gained a lot of knowledge and insight on the effects housing has on children and their families. At the elementary school level, counselors are already seeing a large correlation between the stableness of a child’s home and their success in school.
I asked Cook and Brooks about the impact they see on the kids. They said that many kids have trouble focusing and succeeding in school because of unstable housing, saying it becomes difficult when they have to worry about where they are spending the night. Cook explained that, “You need to have food, and shelter, and clothing, and feel safe before you can learn anything.” When the child is in need, they don’t have the time to worry about their homework or academic success, which sets their future on a harder path. Brooks went on to say, “When a family needs housing, they seem to need other things too. They usually need employment or protection or a vehicle.” Housing is only a piece of the puzzle. Families in Hamilton County are struggling to afford the quality of life they want for their children. The high prices of housing and other necessities makes it difficult for them to support themselves. Cook said that once a family can’t afford Hamilton County, they move to a more dangerous, yet affordable, area. Often families move back to areas they had trouble with in the past, because it’s what they can afford. Cook commented, “It’s heartbreaking, because you see these parents who really want to do what’s best for their kids and they really feel that our schools give them that, but they can’t even afford to live here.”
We went on to discuss how the lack of affordable housing plays a role in what they see in schools. Cook and Brooks both agree that Hamilton County is in need of housing that is accessible to all types of individuals and families. The housing that is affordable for struggling families, is unavailable or requires a long wait. Cook explains, “The wait is terrible. These are crisis situations where they don’t have a place to stay tonight but then, once they jump through the hoops that they’re supposed to, they find out it’s going to take years. That’s defeating.” Hamilton County needs affordable housing, and now. The necessity for it is there, but we need to act quickly. Brooks says that these families are wanting to contribute to the community and want to take advantage of the Hamilton County’s opportunities for their children. They are trying hard, but their is a lot to their problem; there is a reason behind a family’s lack of housing. As counselors, Cook and Brooks do their best to help the children in their school. They take advantage of resources like Hamilton County Youth Assistance, and do all they can to remain a constant supporter in the child’s life. Cook says, “We always try to be the voice of the child and advocate for them.”
Due to the problem schools are seeing, HAND is looking to develop more affordable housing units in Hamilton County to fight against these issues. By opening up more opportunities for families to obtain shelter for their kids, HAND can help students focus and succeed in school. Giving a child a stable home is vital to the future of the child. Hamilton County is known for its great school systems and wealth of opportunity, but it’s time we gave anyone and everyone access to all the county has to offer.