Homelessness in Santa Fe takes many forms. Santa Fe Public Schools Adelante Program sees them daily. Loretta Fernandez, the program’s assistant coordinator and homeless liaison, says the office is “constantly busy” serving children, teens and families grappling with homelessness on a variety of levels: living on the streets, in cars, in shelters, waiting for foster care placement and other situations. Adelante serves students in every school in the district, and estimates 10 percent are living with homelessness.
“A lot of people think homeless is drunks living on the street, people begging on the corner,” Fernandez says. “But it’s a lot of families living in many situations: people who are doubled and tripled up, whole families living in a bedroom, over crowded, substandard housing.” The list goes on.
MIX is teaming up with Adelante for our final event of the year, Cogito Ergo MIX, 6-8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 15 at Descartes Labs to help gather much-needed supplies for the organization. Fernandez says the organization is in particular need of jackets: new ones are preferred, but used jackets can be donated as long as they are clean and intact. Non-perishable food also is always welcome. Other needed items include gift cards, shoes and supplies to help Adelante provide Thanksgiving fixings to its clientele. MIX attendees who bring a donation or donate online will automatically be entered into a raffle featuring multiple prizes from businesses in the Guadalupe District (you must be present to win).
Although the holidays present specific challenges for organizations like Adelante, there are opportunities to help the organization throughout the year. The organization welcomes volunteers to tutor students, work in the community garden, help with fresh food distribution, prepare meals, plan and facilitate classes at evening programs or organize food, school supply and book drives. Adelante also accepts donations to the program, as well as to its Families Experiencing Homeless Fund, which helps cover costs for school activities, field trips and other emergency expenses.
Adelante follows the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which requires that students who live in homeless situations have the same rights and opportunities as other students. Adelante’s program is robust, providing everything from tutoring to school supplies to whatever support is needed. “We try to sign them up for after care right away,” Fernandez says, noting that there are “a lot of barriers” for students living in homeless situations. “Kids go to schools that are unaccompanied, they’re 17, they want to go to school, they have no parent…” Adelante advocates for the students in a variety of ways, including through liaisons that check on them and a case manager to help work with the parents.
Housing remains a key and ongoing issue for MIX, and certainly plays into the reasons families find themselves without adequate shelter. “Imagine being here and working in a hotel downtown, having a three kids and you’re trying to get into a place and they want first and last month’s rent and a deposit,” Fernandez says. “And the rents are getting higher and higher. And then to sign up for affordable housing, there’s waiting lists for the city and the county.” Many people, she notes are just “one paycheck from being homeless…you get behind, and it’s hard to catch up and be on your feet again.”
Please bring items to help Adelante on Nov. 15. You can also enter the raffle by donating to the program online and bringing evidence to the event.