A Franklin schools employee is creating a plan to raise money for area students and families who don’t know whether they’ll have a place to sleep each night.
Kim Spurling is taking over this school year for Franklin’s former community outreach coordinator, Oscar Yturriaga, and most of her time will be spent working with families who don’t have homes and are looking for a permanent place to stay. To help those families, she wants to start raising money to provide emergency or transitional housing.
Johnson County has no homeless shelter that she can refer families to, and right now Spurling doesn’t have any money to give to a family to stay in a hotel for a few nights. That means students or families without a home might have to consider moving to a nearby county that does have a shelter or money for emergency housing, she said.
And suddenly moving from one school district to the next can be disruptive for students, especially if the move happens in the middle of the school year.
Spurling previously worked at Center Grove schools, providing counseling to 25 students with mental health problems whose families were on Medicaid. She assumed Franklin had about as many students from low-income households as Center Grove, and when she started working at Franklin she expected to find about 50 students were without a home, sleeping each night on a different friend’s couch or living in a house with multiple other families.
She had no idea that school officials knew of more than 230 homeless families and that they assumed that figure was low.
“Once my heart sank I said to myself, ‘I’ve got to do something about this,’” she said.
Much of Spurling’s job involves meeting with students without a permanent home, talking about the challenges that poses for them and what can be done to overcome them.
The Spurling file
Franklin schools’ new community outreach coordinator
What she does
Works with homeless students and their families to help them identify and overcome anything that could stop students from completing high school or finding a home
Last year she worked with Center Grove schools, counseling students with mental health problems and other conditions, such as autism.
If, for example, students or their parents are looking for a job in order to pay rent or a mortgage, Spurling will work with them on getting resources to help them find work. And she’ll also help students create a plan to ensure that they’re still able to graduate high school.
If students drop out, they will struggle even more to find a job to support themselves and their families, Spurling said.
Spurling also is reviewing what she needs to do to raise money for emergency or transitional housing, and some of that money could be used to help create a long-term shelter for Johnson County residents. The organization Kids in Crisis Intervention Team, or KIC-IT, which provides meals, supplies and other resources to homeless 16- through 25-year-olds, is trying to open a shelter for the area, and some of the money she raises could be used to help pay for that, Spurling said.
But she said her first priority is to raise money for Franklin schools students of all ages who are homeless or continually changing homes.
She also wants Franklin families to have another place to turn if they need food or school supplies.
Food pantries and supply drives exist around Johnson County, but some families may not feel comfortable going to them for help, Spurling said. But if Franklin schools has a food and school supply pantry for its homeless students, items can be provided discretely to the families who need them. Then she eventually can ease them into the idea of going to a larger food pantry, she said.
Spurling is paid through a grant from the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, and any money that doesn’t pay for Spurling’s salary will be used to buy food and school supplies for Franklin families. Franklin officials don’t know yet how much they’ll receive from the grant, which runs through September, though the amount will likely be less than it was last school year, Spurling said.
And when the grant runs out, she’ll start fundraising for school supplies and food, as well, Spurling said.