By Kurt Watkins
Catastrophic. That’s the term used by school officials to describe the level of homelessness in the Dallas Independent School District. The second largest urban school district in Texas, Dallas ISD serves approximately 160,000 students. Last spring, it reported that more than 3,500 of its students were homeless.
According to After8toEducate, these students have a greater risk of falling behind. They’re more likely to drop out of high school and more susceptible to social and health problems such as addiction, teen pregnancy, depression and involvement with the criminal justice system. After8toEducate is a public-private collaboration — the first of its kind — seeking to address these needs in a comprehensive way.
On March 14, the organization was recognized by The Dallas Foundation as the recipient of its annual $50,000 Pegasus Prize.
“The Pegasus Prize shines a light on the innovative work of nonprofits that are addressing some of Dallas’ most pressing needs,” said Helen Holman, interim co-president of The Dallas Foundation. “After8toEducate is helping address a crucial problem in our community to ensure our teenagers do not become chronically homeless adults.”
While some organizations do provide support to homeless youth, services typically end at 8 p.m., leaving many without a place to go. After8toEducate aims to fill this void and provide students with the services and academic support needed to lead healthy and productive lives. After8toEducate is a collaboration between Dallas ISD, Promise House, CitySquare and Social Venture Partners Dallas. Together, the organizations are developing the After8 facility in the now-vacant Fannie C. Harris Elementary School to provide students a pathway out of homelessness and poverty.
When it opens in fall 2018, the facility will include 35 beds; a 24/7 center providing meals, showers, clothing and laundry services to students in immediate need; as well as academic, emotional and social support services such as tutoring, job training, counseling and family reunification resources. The shelter is expected to provide housing stability for 400 to 500 youths annually, while the immediate support services center will serve 1,200 or more per year.
“The children in our community deserve every opportunity to succeed, but unfortunately unsheltered youth face a number of barriers in and outside of school,” said Hillary Evans, executive director of After8toEducate. “We are honored to be named the 2018 Pegasus Prize winner. Thanks to the generosity of The Dallas Foundation and its donors, we can offer students a better chance of success and a place to call home.”
Visit after8toeducate.com for more information.