Circle of Light Helps Homeless Students

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4In an effort to help homeless children in the Greater Milford area, Circle of Light, Inc. and the Milford School District have continued a partnership to promote awareness and support for local homeless children. Defined as a child that does not have a permanent address, the Milford School District identified 127 children last year that were living in a transitional stage of residency.

Through private donations from the community, local churches, businesses and monies from grants, Circle of Light, Inc. again made a total donation of 100 sleeping bags from WalMart, for children in need during the upcoming school year.

“Several years ago Circle of Light, Inc. first learned of the large number of transitional families in the Milford Area. When presented with [this] scenario the Board of Circle of Light felt strongly we needed to help,” commented Program Coordinator, Circle of Light, Inc., Rev. Deacon Dorothy Vuono. “Having a barrier from the cold floor and adding warmth to the bodies of these children allows the children to be alert and refreshed. It has been proven that a good night’s sleep helps us all to function at our best. These families did not ask for their circumstances in most cases. Any help that can be given provides them with the knowledge that someone cares.”

Individuals at Circle of Light, Inc. and the Milford School District that work with homeless children agree that adding even just one item that is always present in the child’s life can help them deal with the difficulties associated with homelessness. Circle of Light, Inc. is dedicated to helping the homeless women and children in the Milford area and is the intermediary for area non-profits such as People’s Place. They help collect mattresses and household items for the transitional housing that People’s Place offers local women that have experienced abuse.

Over the last five years, the Milford School District has become very involved with helping area students that are considered homeless. In each school, teachers, counselors and administrative staff receive training in how to recognize homeless children and how to assist them. With a nationwide increase in home foreclosures and a decrease in the number of available jobs around the nation over the past several years, officials at the Milford School District expect the number of children identified as homeless to increase over the next school year.

“We had a total of 127 homeless students last year in district.  This number has remained steady over the past couple of years.  I believe the number has always been high,” commented Craig Warrington, Director of Milford School District Mentoring Programs. “The fact that there is more help available and this information is getting out, has brought more families to the forefront. We live is a high poverty area with about 60 percent of our families in the district falling at this level.”

The Milford School District believes that a state of consistency is very important in a child’s life, whether it is a simple sleeping bag or keeping children in their classrooms even when they move outside the district lines. “When people are in hotels and other houses with many people, the sleeping bag gives them a constant and their own space,” said Warrington. “However, many of our students are either on a floor in a shelter, motel or doubled up with other families. There are not enough beds or space available, thus they end up sleeping on the floor. The sleeping bag is a barrier and gives them a softer area to sleep.  Sleeping bags and blankets are always the first items I run out of yearly.”

According to Warrington, children that are considered homeless are bused to the Milford school they attend regardless of where they move.“We want to make sure that families keep kids in the same district to not interrupt their education,” stated Warrington. Five years into the program, Warrington is grateful for the community’s partnership in the effort to promote awareness and support for local homeless children. Although the support has been encouraging, he states that up to 140 local children could be living in a shelter, motel or with a relative or friend when school begins in August.

Circle of Light, Inc. and the Milford School District are asking for the public’s help in assisting these homeless children by providing items such as toiletries and clothing. Local organizations, businesses, church groups and private citizens can get involved by contacting Circle of Light Inc. representative Deacon Dorothy Vuono at 302-682-0382 or circleoflightinc@yahoo.com or Milford School District Representative Craig Warrington at 302-424-6470 or 302-384-4669.