Homelessness in the United States has always been a black mark on our society. As the most prosperous nation in the history of the world, it has been remarkable that we have yet to ensure that everyone has enough of what they need in order to thrive.
But one Utah high school is taking a new approach to dealing with the problem of chronic homelessness in its student body: they are installing facilities to help them stay clean, even when they can’t stay off the streets. You are going to love their new program.
There are so many challenges that face young people living without a home, many are practical, some are simple stigmas placed on them by society and their peers.
While most kids take clean clothes and a shower in the morning for granted, For those who may be living in a temporary shelter, or worse, such things are luxuries as unavailable as caviar and champagne.
But one high school in Salt Lake City, Utah has taken on a new role, beyond educators and baby sitters. They have installed showers and a laundry room to help students within their care who may be homeless.
East High School administrators say that they have between fifty and one hundred students who lack daily access to a shower or clean clothes.
One student, Emily Beatse, says “A lot of them don’t have them in their own homes, and a lot of them are afraid to ask like their friends or someone else.”
These kids have been seen hiding near the school theatre classroom because it has a laundry facility.
Beatse continued “…we have a washing machine and dryer for our costumes, but they’re always very sneaky and they come in during a Saturday rehearsal and hide down in the shop and do it while everyone is up rehearsing.”
The school’s principal, Greg Maughan, believes these students should not have to hide in the corners. He thinks all his students have a right to basic hygiene.
“I don’t want to go to work if I don’t have clean clothes, I don’t want to go to work if I wasn’t able to shower,” Maughan said.
And with that attitude, he got the school to install two new wash rooms with showers and laundry facilities just for these students. They are available for use before, during, or after school.
“It’s to feel like they fit in, to feel like they are part of something, and they don’t stand out,” Maughan said. “And the more likely they are to attend, the more likely they are to succeed in class, to graduate and to move on to college and a career.”
The school has made a special effort to serve the underserved children who attend school here. Every day, volunteers show up to stock a food pantry with donations from the community, proving that it indeed does take a village.
One volunteer, Carol Lear, says “”When my children were at East, the socio-economic makeup of the school was completely different, a lot of credit goes to the administration and to the community who said ‘this is something we need let’s get it started.’”
Going above and beyond to help students at East High is nothing new. Every day, volunteers are stocking shelves in the school’s food pantry. Without donations from community members and local businesses this pantry and the wash rooms would not be possible.
What do you think of East High School’s program? Does your school do something similar? Share your thoughts and stories with us here.