Each day, children in Dawson County are picked up by their parents or ride the bus to go home. But a small group of those students may not be heading for a home of their own.
"Currently the Dawson County School System has 105 active students enrolled in the [homeless] program," said Beverly Maloney, a social worker with Dawson County Middle School.
It's a problem large enough locally that the Family Connection is partnering with social workers like Maloney to start a donation drive of toiletries and personal care products for homeless students.
"Family Connection works closely throughout the year with school social workers and [Maloney] on needs for students," said Nancy Stites, director of Family Connection.
"During the year it became apparent that hygiene products were a continuous need, which spurred a drive where we can help them throughout the year."
According to Maloney, the system classifies a homeless student as an "individual who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence."
This can include families sharing a single-resident home, students living in motels or mobile home areas, such as RV and camp grounds, transitional shelters or even vehicles.
"In Dawson County, the majority of our students fall in the first qualification of homelessness, which is more of a situation of being ‘doubled up' with family or friends," Maloney said. "But we certainly have had our share of families in cars, hotels and the occasional shelter situation this year."
Maloney said that affordable housing is currently the biggest hurdle for homeless families in Dawson County.
"The McKinney-Vento Program, which helps provide funds to send homeless students to school only supports the student with the basic necessities they need to attend school, remove barriers in enrollment and encourage stability in order to close gaps in their education," she said.
This is where Family Connection comes in, according to Stites.
"We work together throughout the year comparing resources to make sure they know of anything that will help stabilize and strengthen their family," she said. "Sometimes it's as simple as a small alarm clock to make sure youth are in school and learning."
Family Connection is accepting donations for this drive through the month of May at the Dawsonville Municipal Complex and the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce office.
For more information, call Family Connection at (706) 265-1981.