‘All they want is to feel safe’: Henrico Schools supporting students facing homelessness

School leaders say they anticipate the need to double in numbers.
Henrico Schools’ McKinney-Vento Education Specialist Lisa Ann Abernathey says there are many houseless children leaning on the school system for support.
Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 4:22 PM EST
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - Henrico County Public Schools leaders are wasting no time in meeting the needs of some of their most vulnerable students.

The school division celebrated the grand opening of its new McKinney-Vento clothing closet and food pantry Tuesday morning. Its goal is to help students be successful in the classroom.

The McKinney-Vento Act is a law that states that if your family is homeless, your child can receive services to help them in school.

“All they want is to feel safe, feel secure, and to feel accepted, and as something as simple to us as having a great new pair of kicks, or a really good looking outfit, means the world to them and means it can get them to school,” Henrico Schools’ McKinney-Vento Education Specialist Lisa Ann Abernathey said.

She says they’ve raised nearly $30,000 worth of shoes, clothes, hygiene products and non-perishable items for students facing homelessness.

Abernathey is one of many that’s making it all possible.

She says education is the number one factor determining how a student will break the poverty cycle.

“Students who are housing instable, who are homeless, actually have chronic absenteeism at a rate that’s twice that of their stable-housed peers,” Abernathey said.

She says many children are leaning on the school system for support.

“Homelessness is real in Henrico County. There are students in need,” she said.

Abernathey says the school division served around 700 eligible students last year, and as of right now, they’re helping 900 students.

“We have, in the past, served almost 1,100 students before, but now with something like this, really the sky is the limit,” Abernathey said.

The closet and food pantry will welcome its first group of families on Wednesday by appointment only. For more information on how to donate or to see if you’re eligible, click here.