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Retired teachers help area homeless students

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - The face of homelessness isn't far from home. There are 100 homeless students at any given time in the La Crosse School District, which is why a group made up of some special members is trying to help.

More than 80 retired teachers in the area are making an effort to remind homeless students in La Crosse and beyond, that sometimes big things do come in small packages.

"Over the course of the year we typically have between 140 and 190 children who are homeless in the school district at any given time so that may be for a night, or it may be for three months," said Regina Siegal, director of Pupil Services.

This alarming reality has members with the La Crosse Area Retired Educators Association taking matters into their own hands.

"We developed 111 care packages that some will go to La Crosse school district and then the others will go to West Salem, Bangor, Melrose, Mindoro, Holmen and Onalaska," said Mary Hanthorne, a retired teacher.

They're not your typical care packages. The 9x11 fleece bags are carrying an important message inside.

"This is just a little note to let you know, you are important and we believe in you," Hanthorne said.

Area social workers say that reminder, helps bring stability to the unpredictable days homeless students are facing.

"Sometimes just having something that's theirs that they can have you know when I think of my families who live in shelters or are doubles up with another family and they may not necessarily have toys and books and and supplies at home," said Alicia Place, a school social worker in La Crosse.

With homeless students often times missing out on academic and social progress, retired teachers prove no matter the age, a teacher's love is timeless.

"Dear elementary students, this note is coming to you from retired teachers, that means that we were once teachers, then we got older, so now we aren't teaching anymore. Let's call us grandteachers. We still love all children and know what they like, so we decided to brighten your day by giving you this bag of goodies. We hope you enjoy all the things that are in it and have fun. Remember, you matter to us and we care about you, we're thinking all good thoughts for you. Love, the grandteachers," reads a letter in the care packages.

More than 500,000 young people experience homelessness every year in the U.S.

Youth ages 12 to 17 are more at risk of homelessness than adults.

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