Monday, Jan 22, 2018
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FAMILY HOUSE INITIATIVE

Shelter set to offer preschool, care for homeless children

Licensed facility in central city will educate little residents

Homeless families will soon have a new resource for preschool and child care, as Family House readies an on-site center which will assist only homeless children.

Staff at the central-city shelter are preparing to reopen a preschool and child-care center, which will now be available to children living in three other Toledo shelters. It is expected to be open by the end of May, said Renee Palacios, Family House executive director.

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Nicole Barnes hugs daughter Camille Cain, 18-months, while playing with daughter Ta’Nyla Barnes, 5, at Family House. Ms. Barnes says knowing that her children learn while they are cared for will ease her mind as she rebuilds her life.

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“Our preschool will be exclusively homeless kids,” she said. “We’re really excited about this because a lot of times our kids are getting bullied and singled out because of their homeless status. By having a space at one shelter that the kids from other shelters can come to ... it will cut down the bullying. The kids will feel more supported because they’re all in the same boat.”

The program will provide crucial stability and chances for academic and emotional development, Ms. Palacios said.

Family House has partnered with Ms. Cathy’s Day Care, a licensed day-care center in the central city. Ms. Cathy’s will run a second location out of Family House, called Ms. Cathy’s Family Comes First Early Learning Center. Families can apply for subsidies through Lucas County Job and Family Services. Family House will cover utilities and other costs.

Toledo City Council last week allocated $59,716 in Community Development Block Grant money to Family House for the upcoming fiscal year.

“We're here for the children,” said Dewey Edwards, program director for Ms. Cathy’s. “We knew from working with other shelters that these parents need respite and help.”

The soon-to-open facility is a revival of the preschool that ran there years ago. Family House opened a preschool in 2007, but it was closed after financial cuts to the shelter during the Mike Bell administration.

The preschool, still full of books, games, and toys, sat empty. So did a donated playground outside, because Family House didn’t have the resources to supervise the children. Now, staffers are getting the space ready for youngsters again.

The new preschool will be open to children living at Family House, La Posada, Aurora Project, and Bethany House. Transportation to Family House is available for children living in the other shelters.

When it opens, it will be available for those 18 months to 4 years, though Ms. Palacios has plans to expand to after-school and summer programming for older children. The center will be licensed for children up to 12.

“Kids need to feel like they have a place to belong, a place to be safe, with people around them that they know care for them,” she said. “When they don’t have that, and they’re bouncing from family member to family member’s house, it affects the kid’s sense of safety and security.”

In addition to academic opportunities, the preschool will teach life skills that might be delayed because of the disruptions of being homeless, such as potty training and table manners.

“Homelessness hurts kids’ education, I can’t stress that enough,” she said.

The Toledo-Lucas County Homelessness Board identified 135 children under 18 in the county as living in shelters or as living on the street, according to a single-night count in January.

The need for child care is great, Ms. Palacios said. Of the 60 children living at Family House, 50 are 4 years old or younger. The program will address two of the biggest concerns for residents looking to get a job, keeping a job, or going to school, she said.

“Two biggest needs, if you talk to any shelter residents: child care and transportation,” she said. “It’s very hard to get anything done without those two, and this program provides both.”

It will benefit parents like Nicole Barnes, who moved into Family House two weeks ago with her daughters Ta’Nyla, 5, and Camille, 18 months. Ms. Barnes, 30, came to Toledo from California, where she left a domestic-violence situation. She is looking for a place to live and has plans to soon enroll in school.

“I don’t have anyone to watch them. I do need child care,” she said. “I don’t have any family out here so it is pretty difficult.”

Convenient and stable care for her daughters, both bubbly — and busy — would be a relief while she gets her life in order, she said. She is pleased that they would be learning while they are there.

“It would take a lot of weight off of me,” she said. “That would be a benefit, having someone watch them while I go do all those things.”

Parents living in the four participating shelters can enroll their children in the preschool. Eligible children can enroll at Ms. Cathy’s Detroit Avenue location now and will move to the Family House center when it is up and running.

Family House is seeking partnerships with churches, nonprofits, and other organizations to do summer programming and other projects with the children.

For more information about the preschool, or to inquire about partnering for summer or after school activities, contact Family House at 419-242-5505.

Contact Lauren Lindstrom at llindstrom@theblade.com, 419-724-6154, or on Twitter @lelindstrom.

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