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Team wants shelter for homeless teens

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ANN MARIE AMES
February 3, 2008
— Thirty-five Janesville teens have nowhere to go.

Maybe their parents kicked them out. Or maybe they chose to leave.


Unlike most of the 221 homeless children in the Janesville School District, these kids are unaccompanied minors.


Homeless shelters can’t take them.


The Homeless Education Action Team held its second meeting last week to talk about the need for a shelter and services for teens in Rock County. The group tentatively plans to host a public information session from Thursday, Feb. 21, in Janesville.


This is the second year the Janesville School District has earned a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to provide services for children who qualify under the federal McKinney-Vento Act, district social worker Ann Forbeck said.


The act provides for children who live in shelters, children whose families have doubled up to afford a house or unaccompanied minors.


Last year, the district’s push was to educate teachers and the public about Janesville’s homeless children. In the 2006-07 school year, there were 312 homeless children in the district, said Forbeck, co-chairwoman of the action team.


As of Jan. 9, there had been 221 homeless children this school year, she said.


Unaccompanied minors are a little different. They are the teens whose parents have kicked them out or have moved away and left the kids behind. The teens float from couch to couch, living off the kindness of others.


As minors, they can’t check in to a local homeless shelter, said social worker Angela Lynch, who works at Jackson Elementary School and the Rock River Charter School.


“They have no recourse,” Lynch said. “Most can find someone to stay with, but we have one who was homeless for two years. That’s been her existence.”


The district is aware of 35 such students, said Forbeck, who works as a social worker at Edison Middle School and as part of the homeless education team.


There are probably more, she said.


Carol Lafferty-Winters, Janesville, has been aware of the number of homeless teens in the Janesville School District for years because her husband, Daniel Winters, has seen the problem as a custodian at Parker High School.


“He saw these kids. He recognized the problem on a personal level,” Lafferty-Winters said. “It’s been a real troubling thing for us.”


IF YOU GO

What: The Homeless Education Action Team wants to host a public information session to address the need for a shelter and services for homeless teens in Rock County.


When: 2 to 3:45 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21


Where: Rock River Charter School, 31 W. Milwaukee St., Janesville


For more information: Call Ann Forbeck at (608) 751-7779



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