It’s National Youth Homelessness Awareness Month, Let’s Step It Up With The STEP Program

“Sometimes people make the choice to leave home because it’s the better choice, unfortunately.”

Each year– more than 2 million kids in the united states will face a period of homelessness. Download

“We were having problems, we didn’t have any clothes or anything. It was very difficult.”

The STEP Program in Traverse City is helping students overcome housing obstacles.

“Just because a student has a roof over their head, doesn’t mean that they have what they need when they’re here. The idea is to make sure kids can fully participate, that they don’t have anything in the way, and that they can be part of their school environment while their living situation isn’t great,” says Abigail Jordan.

Abigail Jordan is the District STEP coordinator for Traverse City Area Public Schools.

Her job is to make sure students have everything they need —

“If a student is eligible for our program, they’ve usually been living in transition, unstable housing, maybe inadequate housing…What we’re really trying to do is make sure you have enough food for the household, or make sure that our kiddos have pillows and blankets at night, So they can get a good nights sleep and come to school, make sure they have transportation,” says Jordan.

The STEP Program assists kids ages three to twenty, but their help doesn’t stop there.

If parents are struggling to provide necessities for their family, the program *steps in and connects families with the help they need.

“It definitely stays very confidential. What are your needs, we might be able to help you and if we can’t, we’ll find somebody who can. You won’t hear me use the word homeless a lot. We’re not here to label, you’re going through it so let’s make sure we can help in the meantime.”

Most often, perceptions of homelessness are driven by those that are most visible.

But a lot of the time, it isn’t as apparent as it may seem, especially for students in school.

Download 1The program is making a difference in many students’ lives. Like this one we talked to that wished to remain anonymous.

The anonymous student says, “We had to spend a couple of months in a camper at my mom’s friend’s house…They helped my family when we were having really hard times. Now I’m doing better because of the STEP Program.”

“We are grant and donation funded. The overall way that we can serve kids is through our donors.”

And many of these donors are the community. Now with the colder weather approaching, many shelters are filled.

And anything that the community can provide will make a difference in these students’ lives.

“There’s a bin outside of Traverse City High School…the food pantries are always looking for donations, and not just non-perishable, there’s the ability to refrigerate and freeze stuff too.”

And as an important reminder —

“The more awareness too, it helps take the stigma away so that people just know it’s something people are going through, it’s not who they are.”

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