Homeless students at Abraxas High School in Poway should find life a little more orderly since the campus received a grant to install a shower and laundry facilities for their use.
The school received a $25,000 county grant for the facilities, which will enable students to clean their clothes and themselves on campus. The facilities will help students who are sleeping on a couch or in a car establish a stable routine and fit in better with classmates, Abraxas Principal Alain Henry said.
“If a kid hasn’t showered in a couple days, everybody knows,” he said. “Or if you’re wearing the same clothes, or they’re not clean, by having a place where kids can get a shower and get their clothes clean, it normalizes things and removes some of the stigma that makes coming to school and focusing more difficult.”
About 1% of students in the Poway Unified School District are classified as “youth in transition,” Henry said. At Abraxas, the district’s continuation high school, 14% of students fall into that category, which broadly means they lack a stable place to live.
“It could mean they are doubled up [in a friend’s or family member’s home], living in a motel, or sleeping in a car,” he said.
In any instance, they may have limited access to bathrooms and washing machines, making it difficult to maintain a regular cleanup routine. The grant will allow the district to retrofit plumbing for a shower in a restroom in the main office, Henry said, and to add a washer and dryer to one of the custodial closets.
Henry said that in a previous job, he had made arrangements for homeless students to use the local recreation center for bathing and laundry, and was looking for a similar accommodation for Abraxas students. The on-campus facilities should offer an even better option, he said.
“Providing access to convenient shower and laundry options will allow these students to address consistently their basic personal needs while maintaining their privacy and dignity,” Ron Little, Poway Unified’s associate superintendent for business services, wrote in the grant request.
Students will be able to use the facilities at a time that’s convenient for them, most likely before or after school, when fewer people are on campus, he said.
“Kids will bring clothes in, do them, and bring them home,” he said. “For us, logistically it will be about ways to make it seamless and invisible for kids, so they can get their needs met without feeling like they’re on show.”
Henry said the district received the grant from the San Diego County Neighborhood Reinvestment Program, with the help of Supervisor Kristin Gaspar. There are currently 23 students who qualify as youth in transition, but the number varies throughout the school year, and the grant was written to serve 20 to 30 students.
Henry said he hasn’t received a timeline for construction, but he estimates the work will begin in the spring, and possibly be complete before the end of the school year.
“If by doing this we remove one more barrier so kids can have the opportunity to strive toward what they’re here for, that’s what this grant will take care of,” he said.
Brennan writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.