By Eduardo Rueda / Investigative Reporter
The San Ysidro School District on Thursday voted unanimously to declare a local state of emergency to deal with issues related to homelessness among over 1,550 of their students.
The Board passed a resolution stating the facts necessary to make the finding of a state of emergency. No other school district has ever made such a declaration in dealing with issues facing students they serve.
“The San Ysidro School District Board of Education declares a ‘local state of emergency’ and calls for immediate action to ensure that all of the District’s students have access to adequate shelter and that programs that address the housing needs of low-income families should be developed and implemented through a collaborative effort of community agencies and stakeholders during the local state of emergency,” said Antonio Martinez, President of the Board, as he read from the resolution.
The District estimates that more than 1,500 of its 5,400 students are homeless in one fashion or another, including those living in their cars, motels, with other families, or some even in trailers at local junk yards.
The focus on homeless and underserved students was heightened when Dr. Julio Fonseca, the District Superintendent, launched “Project Dream” to provide blankets to needy families. Through the donation of blankets, District officials realized the graity of the problem facing these students.
“Homelessness is a symptom of poverty,” said Dr. Fonseca. “Our students deserve to participate in this thing we call the American dream. Not some of them; all of them,” added the Superintendent.
The School Board hopes to use the declaration of an emergency as a way to expediate the modilzation of services for these familes, and also to authorize the use of school district property as a temporary shelter location during the expected rainy season.
“Due to anticipated El Niño weather conditions, it is likely the San Ysidro School District children and their families will need to access shelters and homeless services within the District,” the resolution reads.
Marcos Diaz, Vice President of the school board, added that he has visited some of these families and was moved to act.
“Our priority is to educate these children and we can’t expect to educate them when they show up hungry and cold from living in sub-standard conditions, “Mr. Diaz said.
The District will begin to work with local organizations and agencies to bring together wrap-around services including medical care, nutrition planning, financial assistance, and permanent housing solutions.
“We can help transition these families of our students back to sustainable living situations that will help ensure bright futures for these kids,” added Rodolfo Linares, Secretary of the school board. “I know how these families live because I lived like that too when I was young,” Mr. Linares shared.
The resolution will be forwarded to Governor Jerry Brown in hopes he will declare a state of emergency and activate other state resources to combat the issue of student homelessness.
“Be it further resolved that the Superintendent forward a copy of this Resolution to the Governor with the request that he proclaim the San Ysidro School District to be in a local state of emergency,” the resolution concludes.