New homeless advocate pledges to carry on dedication to kids | NevadaAppeal.com

New homeless advocate pledges to carry on dedication to kids

Teri Vance
Appeal Features Editor

As a volunteer with Carson City Sheriff’s Department Search & Rescue for the past three years, Jeannette Famoso-Ardinger is accustomed to literally finding people who’ve lost their way.

In her new position as homeless advocate with the school district, she will be tracking down young souls who may otherwise be overlooked.

“These kids are our future,” she said. “The only way they’re going to be successful is if we give them the equipment – a pencil and a paper to write on – so they can grow up and take care of us when we’re old and gray.”

Famoso-Ardinger began working with the Carson City School District as a teacher’s aide in the special-education department at Carson Middle School.

She also served as the school’s coordinator of SOAR, an enrichment and academic program designed to help students achieve in a variety of areas.

Two weeks ago, she took over as coordinator of the school district’s Kids in Transition program, to serve as an advocate for students who qualify as homeless. They include those living in motels, hotels, campgrounds, vehicles and tents, as well as those living with grandparents or families doubling up in a single home.

She replaces eight-year veteran Kim Riggs who left to take a job with the Division of Child and Family Services.

Although she only recently began, Famoso-Ardinger says the new job is a good fit.

“I like the smiles on the kids’ faces when they get a new pair of shoes,” she said.

Riggs started the Easter Shoe program seven years ago as a community drive in the spring to stock enough shoes to outfit all needy students in the district, which usually ranges between 400 and 450.

Famoso-Ardinger plans to keep the program in place.

“Shoes are the most important thing,” she said. “They are the only feet you’ll ever get, and you have to take care of them.”

She said that by taking care of students’ physical needs, it frees them up to focus on academics.

“If they don’t have to worry about the shirt they’re wearing, they don’t have to be identified as homeless,” she said. “It gives them one less thing to worry about. Everyone deserves to have a level playing field.”

Among the services offered through the program housed at the Gleason Complex are shoes, clothes, backpacks with school supplies, formal attire for graduations and prom, as well as providing an advocate to ensure needed services to homeless children and their families.

Riggs credited the community with making her eight-year tenure a success, and said she hopes people will continue to support her successor with the same enthusiasm.

“It’s the community that runs this program,” Riggs said. “You just have to have a passionate person out front getting it all together. She definitely has the passion.”

Famoso-Ardinger recognizes the importance of working with other community agencies as well.

“Nobody, no single person, can raise a child without the support and wisdom of the group,” she said.

• Contact reporter Teri Vance at tvance@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1272.

You can help

• Carson City School District’s Kids in Transition program needs donations of clothing, coats, shoes and school supplies, as well as new socks and underwear for all ages.

• To donate, call Janeatte Famoso-Ardinger at 690-1303, or drop it off at the Gleason School, 604 W. Musser St.

About the program:

• The Kids in Transition program serves children living in motels, hotels, campgrounds, vehicles and tents, as well as those living with grandparents or families doubling up in a single home.

• There are usually about 400-450 who qualify each year.

Nationwide statistics on homeless children

• According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 1.35 million U.S. children are homeless on any given night.

• Families are now the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, accounting for almost 39 percent of the nation’s homeless.

• The average age of a homeless person in the U.S. is 9 years old.

• 41 percent of homeless children are under the age of 5.

• Nearly 20 percent of homeless children lack a regular source of medical care.

• Homeless children are hungry more than twice as often as other children.

• Almost 1Ú3 of low-income families do not have enough money to prepare three meals a day.

• 14 percent of homeless children are diagnosed with learning disabilities – double the rate of other children.

• 21 percent of homeless children repeat a grade because of frequent absence from school.

• Within a single school year, 41 percent of homeless students attend two different schools, 28 percent attend three or more.

• For children and youth identified as homeless by State Departments of Education, 35 percent lived in shelters, 34 percent lived doubled up with family or friends and 23 percent lived in motels or other locations.

– Source: National Coalition for the Homeless