As the holiday season approaches, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of providing Christmas cheer for family and friends — and it’s equally easy to forget that not everyone will have a home to go to for the holidays.
Such is the case for the thousands of Dallas ISD students — estimates are anywhere from 3,000 to 6,500 — who are homeless.
As we’ve talked about before, even the most prosperous high schools in Dallas ISD have students experiencing need. Without the district’s drop-in centers, which provide things like clean uniforms, food, and toiletries to students (as well as filling other emergency needs), these students would find it much more difficult to stay in school.
In fact, research shows that things that seem the simplest — clean uniforms, reliable transportation to school, and food — can have a big impact on student achievement and success.
But the holiday season can often find those provisions spread thin — which is why Downtown Dallas stakeholders and community leaders banded together to hold a gift card drive.
“This time of year, donations are needed and supplies are low,” said organizer and sponsor Tanya Ragan, president of Wildcat Management, a downtown Dallas firm. She founded the organization Solutions for Dallas Homeless as a way of engaging the entire community to address the needs of the city’s homeless population.
The fundraiser, which was held on Nov. 8, raised $2,250 in gift cards. The Downtown Dallas stakeholders, Dallas ISD school board trustee Miguel Solis, and Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Adam Medrano presented the donation to Focus on Teens, which is managing 18 of the district’s 19 drop-in centers, on Dec. 11 at Rex’s Seafood at the Dallas Farmers Market.
The organization also funds emergency needs for homeless youth in 13 Dallas ISD schools and 10 Fort Worth ISD schools.
“According to Keith Price, president of Focus on Teens, this is a vulnerable time of year for DISD homeless students,” Ragan said. “He said he will be utilizing some of the donated gift cards as soon as possible.”
Didn’t get to donate? The district will begin the work on creating an overnight shelter for older students that will open in a year. The Dallas ISD Homeless Education Program also has an Amazon Wish List, if you’re interested in having items shipped directly to the program.
Bethany Erickson is the education, consumer affairs, and public policy columnist for CandysDirt.com. Contact her at email@example.com.