City Rescue Mission tutors homeless children

Thursday, December 27th 2007, 6:25 pm
By: News 9

By Mary Joseph, NEWS 9

Jaqawn and Jayshad have been living at the City Rescue Mission since August.  These two children are just two of the 30 to 40 students attending the Mission's tutor program every year.

A new report shows more than 8,200 students in Oklahoma are homeless. Most homeless students in the Sooner state are doubled up--meaning they are living with another family and many of them can be found right here in Oklahoma City.

Heather Selement has been working as a reverend at the Mission for three years.  She said homeless children are often more mature for their age, filled with life lessons and adult worries.

"They are in what we call survival mode," said Selement, a children chaplain. "They are constantly thinking about where they are going to get their next meal or where they are going to stay that night."

Although Jaqawn is keeping up in kindergarten, many homeless children have trouble with schoolwork. Preoccupied with adult worries, homeless children can be two to three grade-levels behind from other students, said Selement.

The City Rescue Mission has tutors these children regularly. The tutors spend time reading, teaching computer classes and running after-school activities.  The City Rescue Mission tries to provide a regular routine for these children who rarely have any stability in their lives. The shelters also work with school officials to conceal the children's living status from other students.

"They are the first ones picked up on a school bus route and they are the last ones dropped off--no matter what. So their confidentiality is not broken in any way," said the reverend.

The cards may be stacked against them, but at the City Rescue Mission, the children are taught they have choices--choices that give them hope about their future.

"If we are going to break the cycle of homelessness, we have to start with the kids," she said.