603 students in the Cedar Rapids Community School District were identified as homeless during the 2015-2016 school year. That is almost 4% of the total number of students enrolled in the district for the current school year.
“Homelessness is not just a loss of housing. It is a loss of stability, safety, and identity,” Liz Birdsley, Homeless Specialist for the Cedar Rapids School District, said.
Birdsley works with students Pre-k-12th grade experiencing homelessness. Her role is to make sure students are able to enroll in school despite obstacles such as fees, lunch costs, and transportation. Lately, she has been promoting an event that could help this problem.
The 11th Annual Linn County Sleep Out for the Homeless at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium occurs on October 29th and 30th this year.
Since the event takes place in late October, when Iowa is edging towards the cold season, it is helpful to bring sufficient clothing to have a fun experience. Also, a tent is needed to sleep in along with pillows, snacks, water, or anything else that will make the night as comfortable as possible.
“There is no fee to participate, rather your team works together to set a fundraising goal and collect those funds before the event,” Birdsley said. The goal this year is to raise $20,000, and the proceeds will go to the following programs:
Area Substance Abuse Council-helps recovering men, women with or without children, and pregnant women
Catherine McAuley Center-helps women
Family Promise of Linn County-helps families
Foundation 2- helps families, youth
HACAP- helps families and children
Mission of Hope- helps former offenders, adult males, and intoxicated adult males
Salvation Army-helps families
Waypoint- helps women, children, domestic violence victims,
Willis Dady- helps men, families
Cedar Valley Friends of the Family- helps women and children experiencing sexual or domestic abuse
Catholic Worker House- helps women, married couples with or without children
Due to homelessness being an issue that hits home in the Cedar Rapids School District, there are other contributions that Kennedy students are able to do.
“Kennedy students can organize drives to collect goods…student groups can volunteer their time serving meals at Greene Square Park… Kennedy students can also encourage their friends, family, neighbors to donate goods, services, time, and money to our area homeless service providers,” Birdsley said.
Every little bit helps towards people in need and homeless. To gather more information about Linn County’s Sleep Out for the Homeless, go to sleepoutcr.org or visit the Area Substance Abuse Council webpage here.