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Summer Camps For Homeless Baltimore Students
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August 14, 2012
The summer is not the most relaxing time of year for all students. Many homeless students live in shelters that close their doors during the day, and have no place to go. They spend hot days in the parks, in libraries or simply wandering the streets. In this report, WYPR’s Gwendolyn Glenn profiles two of Baltimore city’s summer programs for homeless students.
Gwendolyn Glenn: Camp St. Vincent, where students take classes under tents in Baltimore’s Patterson Park, looks like most other summer programs.
Glenn: The difference is that all of these students are homeless. For eight weeks this summer, 120 elementary and middle school homeless students came here to study math and reading, play sports, enjoy meals and go on field trips. The camp operated from eight in the morning until 3:30 p.m.Teacher Sound: So, first step, what is 9 plus two, eleven, yep, so…
Vena Carter: If it wasn’t for St. Vincent, they wouldn’t have a place to go
Glenn: Vena Carter is the camp’s director. She says students from 18 shelters were bused here daily. With the number of homeless students increasing by 75 percent in Baltimore city over the past 6 years, Carter says the camp is meeting a critical need.
Carter: Our program is very unique because it gives parents an opportunity in the day to do what they need to do to get back on their feet, be it a job, school, classes for a GED and they know their child is in a safe, nurturing environment.
Glenn: Thirty-seven-year old Toya Suite’s three children enjoy swimming at the park’s pool. When Suite lost her job, they moved to a shelter where they have to leave at eight each morning. Suite says the camp was a Godsend.
Toya Suite: Woo. It was kind of scary to think about because I had no idea what we were going do. Fortunately, school ended on Friday and on Monday they were in camp.
Glenn: Suite’s 12-year-old son Taj Logan describes the camp as a fun place where he feels comfortable because all of the students are going through the same thing.
Taj Logan: It helps a lot because I know I’m not going to be teased or not feel bad because I’m the only kid in a shelter.
Glenn: At the Druid Hill Y, this summer program serves 75 homeless 9th to 12th grade students. Most live in group homes or with relatives, but that still qualifies them as homeless. In addition to receiving hot meals, they have classes and enrichment activities for half of the day and go to paid jobs in the afternoons. Michael Harrell is the program’s academic coordinator.
Michael Harrell: They needed this outlet to give them clear direction and focus and not have a lot of down time to be involved in things they shouldn’t be involved in.
Glenn: Karen Webber-Ndour, the school district’s student support and safety director, says they hope to expand summer programs for homeless students in the future. In the meantime, she says they have hired the district’s first homeless coordinator.
Karen Webber-Ndour: What that will do is help us identify homeless students. Last year, we had 2,500 identified as homeless and we’re certain that doesn’t cover all homeless students, especially when you consider those doubled up and tripled up in relatives and friends apartments. So having a homeless liaison will assist us in making sure that the students who are self-identified are provided with the services that we do have.
Glenn: Camp St. Vincent’s program ended on Friday, which has some parents of those campers once again faced with finding a place for them to go during the day, until school starts in two weeks. I’m Gwendolyn Glenn reporting for 88.1, WYPR.
Full disclosure: Education reporting on WYPR is sponsored by the Y of Central Maryland. You can reach the WYPR Newsroom at email@example.com.
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