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School Program Helps Students With Housing Instability

Demeka Artis (center) and her children during a visit from RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras (Photo: Richmond Public Schools)

The Richmond Public Schools district established the Center for Families in Transition this month to help students who face housing instability. 

The center, also known as C-Fit, is an extension to the district’s McKinney-Vento program, which provides federal aid to students facing homelessness. C-Fit Manager Erika Schmale says through the center, the district will be able to extend its services to more students.

“We’re able to connect families to housing search assistance, first month’s rent, and security deposit,” Schmale said. 

C-Fit includes the RPS permanent housing program Bringing Families Home, which kicked off over the summer. The program works in partnership with the nonprofit Housing Families First. 

Six families have already been connected with permanent housing through C-Fit, including Demeka Artis and her three children. Artis says the RPS program was her last hope, and that all it took was one phone call to get her set up.

“Since December of last year, we were going from hotel to hotel. It was just hard, but then the schools and some churches made sure we had everything we needed,” she said. “It was a blessing.”

Artis moved into her new home in June.

Beth Vann-Turnbull, Housing Families First’s executive director, says she hopes the collaboration with RPS will help reach more families in need before they become homeless.

“When students are more safely housed, they come to school more often. Coming to school more often is associated with better grades, better grades with graduation rates. So it really is a domino effect in a positive way,” Vann-Turnbull said.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the national average graduation rate for homeless students is 64%, compared to the average 84% for all students.

The district aims to house 130 Richmond students in need over the next year.  C-Fit also provides families in need with weekly groceries, secondhand clothing and school supplies.

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