Providing wrap-around services for students and helping to bridge gaps due to poverty are an ongoing focus for the Foundation for VPS. In some cases, support helps families facing hardships due to unexpected circumstances. Sadly, this school year a VPS student died following a tragic accident. There was an immediate need to respond to support students and families across multiple schools and to rally resources to help the family navigate a very difficult time.
The family had already overcome multiple challenges stemming from illness with Covid and subsequent loss of employment. They were finally beginning to enjoy stable housing after securing new employment that would enable them to better support their large family.
When the accident occurred, the family’s lives were once again in turmoil. For a period of time following the accident, the boy was on life support in the ICU and his family members needed to take time off work resulting in lost wages. Unfortunately, their jobs do not provide paid leave. The newfound stability was in jeopardy.
The Foundation responded, partnering with multiple VPS departments and staff to identify needs of the youth and other family members directly impacted, and quickly and discreetly ensure they were met. Through the Foundation and other donors, the family’s rent was paid, they were provided with gas cards, and help with cell phone bills so the hospital could have constant contact. They were also connected to resources in the community to support them.
Ensuring their housing was covered and all basic needs were met for the other children allowed the family to grieve together and process their loss in a culturally responsive way without fear of being unhoused in the near future-during the holidays and winter.
Although most VPS families never experience this level of tragedy, there are many families that are barely holding on to sustainable housing. Less than 4 months into the school year we have already distributed more than half of the Foundation’s budgeted funds for housing stability. Families are still struggling to recover from the effects of COVID. With the current housing crisis and increased costs of rent, food, gas, and other goods, many are in jeopardy of losing housing. When this is compounded by unexpected circumstances it can be debilitating for a family who may not have the resources and ability to advocate for themselves in a way that can ensure their family rebounds.
“Having money that is unrestricted helps us so much. It allows us to be flexible in how we support families, meeting them right where they are, thus making the largest impact possible,” said Jenny Thompson, Foundation Executive Director. “The ability to leverage money and partner with other organizations ensures we are able to more readily meet the needs of each individual student and family based on their unique circumstances and barriers to access.”
We all have a responsibility to support the health and well-being of the children and families in our communities. Despite challenges and uncertainty, our community consistently rallies together to address students’ unmet basic needs and to enhance their educational experience with learning tools, enrichment programs, and mentoring opportunities.