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Group offers scholarships to help battle homelessness

LYNN – With over 1,000 homeless students enrolled in the Lynn Public Schools and countless other families struggling to stay above water across the state, homelessness is an epidemic affecting millions of innocent children in Massachusetts.One Family Inc., a Gloucester-based non-profit organization, is hoping to put a dent in those numbers by offering scholarships to low-income and formerly homeless women, so that they can attend college and secure a career and support their families.The program offers qualified participants college scholarships coupled with career development and leadership training, along with financial aid and the support of an “extended family” to help them achieve their academic goals.The scholarship includes money for tuition, textbooks, childcare and living expenses, along with sponsored leadership training through the organization. Women are paired with trained mentors and staff support that fosters creative problem solving to manage obstacles, links students to educational resources and “cultivates peer relationships.”Scholarship selection is based on academic promise, leadership potential, demonstrated work ethic and financial need.Since its inception in 2000, the One Family Scholars program has grown to a total of 125 scholars, representing a total of 300 individuals when children are factored in. By providing mothers with the tools to achieve financial security, the cycle of generational poverty is broken.A recent homeless count conducted in Lynn showed a total of 108 homeless individuals in the city, 66 sheltered and 42 unsheltered, including one sheltered family. This number is flawed, however, as homeless individuals are often difficult to track, therefore many are not counted during these surveys.In Lynn Public Schools, a total of 1,313 homeless students were enrolled as of June 2007, but this number is also an estimate because of the high mobility of the homeless population, and the failure of parents or students in reporting a situational change in housing.A student who is considered homeless is not necessarily sleeping on the street every night, as many bounce around between the homes of friends and relatives, while others stay in shelters with their families. The schools did estimate that approximately 300 students are enrolled in school without parents or families, however, meaning that classroom time may be the most stable part of their day.”That is one of the scariest stats, that we have 200-300 kids without parents enrolled in school,” said Margie St. Paul, executive director of the Lynn Shelter Organization. “That is a stunning figure, because I can’t imagine ever going to school unless they are made to. That makes me think that they go just to have some place to go during the day.”According to information provided by One Family, the number of homeless families in Massachusetts is up to 20,000, and the state has had to expand from two to 80 family homeless shelters in the last 20 years. The goal of the organization is to stop the trend at its source, and get mothers into school so that their children will have a chance to succeed.For more information on One Family scholarships, visit www.onefamilyinc.org or call Toni Wiley at 617-423-0504.

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