Education in Shelters

Community Wellness

“Health is more than the food we eat” ~ Ritcha

If you are familiar with me or have been following me for a while, you know that my interests go beyond just discussing food and fitness for improving one’s health. Health encompasses a wide range of factors, including environmental and community health, which are topics I am eager to delve into more. As someone who has always felt empathy for the homeless and as a strong advocate for education, I would like to bring awareness to providing education in shelters. 

As well as affecting all races, genders, and ages, homelessness also elicits many different opinions. It is easy for us to pass judgment on someone or a situation without knowing anything about them. Among the things I’ve heard are; they are homeless because of bad decisions they made, they are on drugs, they don’t want a job, they don’t care about bettering their lives or they would do something, it’s their fault they are where they are, they just want a handout… Those are assumptions, not facts. Without hearing their story, you have no right to judge them.   

Many have made bad decisions that left them homeless, and on the streets, but suppose something happened and they lost everything due to no fault of their own? Do they deserve to sleep on the streets? Do you ever regret a decision you made? Have you ever had something bad happen that you had no control over? Do you have family and friends that are there to support you? They probably don’t or they wouldn’t be where they are.  What if we took time to ask, time to show that we care, that we are here to listen and help if they want help? What if we could help one person by going above the typical donation and took time to listen to their story?   

Are you aware of the number of people who graduate high school and can’t find jobs because they have no skills? Do you know the dropout rate from school because kids can’t read or write? All I ask is that you read my research with an open mind. It is time to stop just giving handouts and give love and grace to those who want a better life. All it takes is one pebble to make a ripple effect. Will you be the one who helps one? 

Help Make A Difference

Providing Education in Shelters

The number of people needing assistance with food and shelter has risen over the years. Alabama has many facilities that do an excellent job supplying food and some have sleeping quarters, but most do not provide job skills or basic life, health, or wellness training needed for survival. Education is key to success in all areas of life; therefore, we cannot expect people to make changes if they do not know what to do, how to do it, or where to start. If there were guidelines in place that required people to take part in something that shows that they want to better their lives, it would incentivize them and help control homelessness. If we do not teach people how to live a healthier lifestyle, they will continue to need assistance to survive without achieving a decent quality of life for themselves and/or their families. Offering training that will help others better their lives, shows them that someone cares

                                     Examples of education ideas and those who can help

  • How to fill out a job application – Local business owner 
  • How and where to find jobs – Salvation Army resources  
  • Budget planning – Accountant 
  • Opening a bank account – Teller at a local bank 
  • Renting an apartment – Realtor / Apartment manager 
  • Learning a trade – Local business owners 
  • GED prep – HS teachers 
  • Applying to school – HS counselor 
  • Cooking/preparing meals – Anyone who loves to cook 
  • Shopping on a budget – Budget planner/homemaker 
  • Relationship skills – Counselor 

Homelessness is of no respecter of people. Here is a graph showing stats of all ethnic groups, ages, and genders in the U.S.

As I researched a few organizations in my community I discovered that there are a lot of people needing assistance and though money is given to help provide food and shelter it is not allocated towards education. I know people need to eat and I am not suggesting we stop feeding them but if we can teach them ways in which they can better provide for themselves we would see homelessness minimized.

Food Ministry

I spoke with a board member at a local food ministry to get her thoughts on education being offered in shelters. She told me that they do not offer education right now, but that may be something they look at in the future.

Here is a quote from their website:

“Manna Ministries feeds over a thousand families each month in the Chilton, Jefferson, and Shelby counties! On Saturdays, we distribute food to over 2,000 a month which includes loaves of bread, along with pantry items, produce, meats, dairy and pastries are packaged and distributed to those in need in our area and surrounding communities.”

I also found the press release where Governor Kaye Ivey awarded $2.65 mil to fight homelessness in Alabama. Though I am thankful for the money that was allocated, there is nothing listed about providing life skills to help them get off the streets.

“Helping others in need is the Alabama way, and our folks’ unrelenting desire to do so is one of the many things that makes our state so special,” said Governor Ivey. “Unfortunately, homelessness is a very real issue facing our communities, and it’s on us as Alabamians to change that. I’m proud to allocate these funds towards ensuring those less fortunate have a safe, warm shelter to spend the holidays.”

This chart represents the percentage of homeless people in Alabama as of 2018


Another area I looked into is homeless youth. Youth are being overlooked in the school system due to situations they have no control over. Some youths are entering high school not able to read and therefore quit. The program that is in place, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), is advancing students in grade but not in learning skills. It is not easy to make it in life without an education. If we can stop these statistics from rising, by starting with our youth, we will see a dramatic difference in homelessness in the future.

The NCHE, National Center for Homeless Education, shared these statistics.

“The lack of a high school diploma or GED correlates more strongly than any other risk factor with experiences of youth homelessness, with young people without a diploma or GED being 3.5 times (346%) more likely to experience homelessness than their peers who completed high school.”

Though this chart shows statistics on a national level,
Alabama is a part of the overall percentage.

Some programs in place set a good example by educating others along with providing food and shelter. If we implemented these standards in each county, we would see a difference statewide and set an example on a national level, aka a ripple effect.

The Way Station is a new program in Birmingham that is for young people ages 19-24 who can stay for up to two years. During this time, they are educated in life skills. By starting programs for young adults, we will see fewer homeless people in our communities.

Here is a quote from their website:

“Once residents are placed, they receive a host of services to help them transition into more stable housing over time, including GED prep; case management; financial empowerment classes; life skills; employment and housing readiness education; introductions into partnerships with trade and vocational training; and access to medical care.”

The Salvation Army is a great example of a program that offers education and life skill opportunities that could be modeled and utilized as a place to send people until more programs are set in place.

It takes all of us working together and sharing our resources to make a difference. Will you join me today by serving to help get people educated and off the streets?

Links to resources

I would love to know your thoughts and ideas on ways we can make a difference in our communities in hopes to make a ripple effect across the globe.

Thank you for reading! I hope you will follow along and perhaps even join me on this journey. 

Ritcha Garrett, HHC

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