Beyond Basic Needs: A School Family

Homeless students struggle with basic needs: food, clothing, and shelter. So at Positive Tomorrows meeting those needs is the top priority. A child cannot learn on an empty stomach so their first stop in the morning is breakfast. When temperatures drop, each child receives a coat so no one has to shiver at recess. But it doesn’t stop there.

Simply meeting a child’s basic needs won’t remove some of the greatest barriers to learning that homeless children face. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, in order to succeed they must feel safe, secure and loved. They must feel included. They must feel that they belong in order to be successful.

Homelessness can be isolating. Students often live in places where they must be quiet, or they move so often they never have time to make friends at school. They’re accustomed to hiding their home situation from others, never fully opening up for fear someone might find out they live in a shelter or motel. When you’re always moving, always hiding – it’s hard to make friends.

At Positive Tomorrows, students begin every day with a morning meeting. They are encouraged to greet each other by name, to share what makes them happy, and even what makes them sad. No one has to hide their home situation because they all understand. Teachers tell students they are loved, and classrooms begin to feel like families.

“I want my students to know they matter,” said Shelly Fryer, 3-4th grade teacher at Positive Tomorrows. “I want them to hear me say that I love them before they even believe it themselves.”

Now that fall is here, teachers are creating family traditions at school. Those traditions include a trip to the pumpkin patch, an annual trick-or-treat trip, even making hot chocolate while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, then crafting their own hand-made floats to line the hallway.

Students have a sense of belonging at Positive Tomorrows. They know they’ll not only be physically safe, but that emotionally they can let down their guard, make friends, and be loved.

This school family is comprised of more than just staff and students. It also includes volunteers. Learn how you can get involved and be part of it.