2021 Kickball for a Cause donations are supporting the Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF) and their mission to advance the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness in Southwestern Pennsylvania and guide them to be productive, empowered citizens.
Meet Homeless Children’s Education Fund
HCEF is one of the first organizations that brought youth homelessness to the forefront in America. It is also one of the few organizations in the U.S. advocating for and supporting education for children experiencing homelessness.
Before learning more about HCEF’s work in the region, it is crucial to understand the definition of “Homelessness.” HCEF follows the McKinney-Vento Act’s definition and identifies children who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence as children experiencing homelessness. The definition also includes homeless youth who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, including living doubled-up in temporary sharing residence with others, in shelters, in motels and hotels, in transitional housing, awaiting foster care placement, or unsheltered.
Education is an equalizer. The children and families experiencing homelessness served by HCEF have faced many barriers and life challenges, but they are also strong and resilient. Through thoughtful educational programs, innovative solutions, and a caring approach, HCEF empowers children experiencing homelessness to realize their potential and to live their best lives. In addition to the programs and resources, HCEF supports children experiencing homelessness with love – letting them know they matter, and that HCEF is here to help them excel.
“It is not about what you do,” says Carlos T. Carter, the Executive Director of HCEF, “but how you do it.” One of the most powerful moments Carlos has experienced so far was when a 17-year-old boy, whom HCEF helped, told Carlos, “This is what love feels like.” Knowing what they do makes people feel loved and supported is reaffirming to Carlos and the staff at HCEF.
HCEF has many programs designed to support children experiencing homelessness and their families:
- Funding like educational mini-grants, emergency educational fund, and Hope through Learning Awards support children learning in schools, achieving high school graduations, pursuing higher educations, and getting ready to enter the workforce.
- The annual backpack distribution provides quality school supplies to families and children in need.
- The teen outreach program provides guidance, mentorship, and career and college readiness preparation to teens in unstable housing situations during school hours. HCEF staff and volunteer tutors work to address the unique challenges of teens experiencing homelessness who may be doubled up or moving from relative to relative.
- The Building Blocks After-school program provides on-site programming in shelters and communities for homeless students to complete homework, improve literacy, and pursue creative projects with the help of highly qualified teachers and volunteer tutors.
In addition to the regular programs and partnerships with local organizations and shelters, HCEF will launch a new program, mobile learning, in the coming weeks.
The mobile learning program emerged during the pandemic when HCEF couldn’t conduct its programs on-site. This new program takes education directly to the family, especially when many lack access to many resources. For one of the mobile learning visits, HCEF staff helped to connect a family to the internet for remote schooling and brought games and books to engage children in learning. By staying resilient during the pandemic, HCEF affirms the importance of meeting people in person where they need support.
“Through education and love, we remove barriers, take support to the streets, and empower people to break the cycle of homelessness,” says Carlos. “We help to peel back the homelessness label and tell their story—they want the best for themselves and their families, just like you and me.”
Why We’re Important to Young Pittsburgh
There are 3,451 youths experiencing homelessness in Allegheny County based on the 2018-19 school year records. The number is likely to be higher, as many children experiencing homelessness can’t be determined precisely as it is often underreported in school districts. Homelessness is not just an issue in Allegheny County or Southwestern Pennsylvania but a nationwide concern.
According to the National Center for Homeless Education, children and youth experiencing homelessness are:
- Four times more likely than their peers to show delayed development
- More likely to experience significant educational disruption: Students who change schools due to homelessness typically fall behind academically 4-6 months per change in schools.
- Housing insecurity disrupts a child’s education and can impede their ability to build stable relationships with caring adults outside the immediate family – a crucial factor in their development at any age.
“Young people can relate to how difficult it is to make it through school trying to find their identity and sense of belonging, and figuring out what to do in the future. Then imagine adding housing insecurity, being unsure of where to go, and hunger to the mix,” says Carlos, “They can empathize with other young people and imagine what it is like to have no support. I believe young Pittsburghers are ready to give their heart and time to make an impact. It is not about handouts, but about lifting others.”
Funds from PUMP’s Kickball for a Cause will support an array of HCEF’s programs like the after-school program, the emergency education fund, the annual backpack distribution, and the new mobile learning program. The funds will help children break the homelessness cycle and be productive, empowered citizens.
If you can’t attend this year’s event, you can still donate to Kickball for a Cause to support HCEF. Your contributions to HCEF connect children experiencing homelessness and families with love, support, and resources to remove barriers to educational advancement.
There are also many ways you can get involved with the organization, including:
- Volunteer to be a mentor and help tutor homeless youth
- Become an HCEF Ambassador or a part of the HCEF outreach team to raise awareness about the issue of homelessness
- Host a fundraiser to support HCEF’s mission