A rendering of the new Mountain View shelter. Courtesy LifeMoves.Posted December 24, 2020
LifeMoves assists unhoused students and their families
by Nacole Barth-Ellis
It's easy to label 2020 a year to forget, with nothing but heartbreak and hardship. But things are growing more positive with each day for Heilala and her family. She and her six family members were living in one bedroom of a friend's home. When the friend decided to sell the house, Heilala, a high school senior, and her family became homeless.
Heilala said having a roof over their heads, "a home" at Haven Family House in Menlo Park, was life-changing, especially when the family was forced to quarantine for 14 days due to COVID-19. But being homeless significantly impacted her school performance. Heilala said she didn't confide with her classmates about her living situation, but did share with her teachers and school counselors about the challenges she and her family were facing. "I struggled a lot with balancing my own needs, my family, and school. My only focus was on the fact that we were homeless. I lacked the motivation to even try at school and so I fell behind," Heilala admitted.
COVID-19 has increased anxiety among both our oldest and youngest LifeMoves clients. Moving to a remote learning format while adhering to social distance protocols has required creative solutions to ensure students are not left behind academically. Many parents are struggling with how to help their children who are learning remotely, and it's especially challenging for students who have special needs or if there is a language barrier. All LifeMoves family shelters have Children's Services Coordinators (CSCs), who are essentially case managers for the children in our shelters. Since the shelter-in-place order was mandated in March, our CSCs have been providing extra services to ensure all school-aged children in our shelters have everything they need for remote learning.
Students at all six LifeMoves family shelters have personal computers and improved internet access for remote learning. With many children from the same family often taking classes at the same time, headphones are critically important to focus on individual lessons. Common spaces at LifeMoves shelters have been repurposed to accommodate student learners on-site.
LifeMoves is one of the beneficiaries of The Almanac's Holiday Fund. Because The Almanac and its partner the Silicon Valley Community Foundation cover all the administrative costs, every dollar raised goes directly to this year's 10 nonprofit organizations. Donations to the Holiday Fund can be made at almanacnews.com/holiday_fund.
Heilala attributes the unwavering support her family found at Haven Family House with helping her graduate from a local high school this spring, though she was sad not have been able to participate in a traditional graduation ceremony. On the advice of her CSC, Heilala is continuing her education at College of San Mateo.
She credits the encouragement she received from the CSCs and LifeMoves' student therapist for helping her persevere. "Once confused, scared and alone, I now feel more comfortable, grateful, well-supported and willing to pay it all forward," Heilala said.
LifeMoves plans to help even more families like Heilala's in 2021. A new shelter in Mountain View is slated to open later this winter and will serve 12 families and 88 individuals. The first new shelter in Santa Clara County in many years, the space will provide 10 times the number of year-round shelter beds available in Mountain View. For more information on this project, visit lifemoves.org/homekey.
LifeMoves' mission, since 1987, has been to provide interim housing and supportive services for homeless families and individuals to rapidly return to stable housing and self-sufficiency. Over the course of a year, we provide food, clothing, customized case management, and 240,000 nights of shelter all provided at no charge to our clients. On any given night, we house more than 1,200 individuals, about one-third of whom are children.
LifeMoves operates 24 shelters and service sites within San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. To learn more about LifeMoves, visit lifemoves.org or call 650-685-5880.