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Press Release

Friday, October 26, 2012

DOE Press Office
(850) 245-0413

Wells Fargo Gives a Helping Hand to Homeless Florida Students

Tallahassee, Fla., October 26, 2012 - For many students in Florida, acing the next test or making it to after-school practice on time is the height of their concerns. For others, life may not be so simple. While there is federal help for educating homeless children and youth through the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act, there are many unmet needs. Wells Fargo became aware of the homeless student population in Florida in 2011 and began making grants directly to some school districts in North Florida to help homeless students. More recently, the large financial services institution donated $100,000 to the Florida Education Foundation to aid homeless students throughout the state and promote their educational well being.

In 2012, Wells Fargo was a major sponsor of the Southeast Institute on Homelessness and Supportive Housing, which included a focus on homeless students, coordinated by Lorraine Allen of the Florida Department of Education. Connie Smith, Senior Vice President and Community Affairs Manager for Wells Fargo in Florida, attended a session presented by Dr. Karen Barber, the homeless student liaison in Santa Rosa County.

Dr. Barber described how she had attended the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth Conference, learned about an innovative "host homes" program for homeless unaccompanied youth, and was inspired to implement it in her home district. Moved by Dr. Barber's presentation, Smith worked with the Florida Education Foundation to set up a fund to provide scholarships for other Florida homeless student liaisons to attend the conference.

"Wells Fargo is honored to work with the Florida Education Foundation to establish the Homeless Unaccompanied Youth Education Fund," said Smith. "As strong supporters of education in Florida and keenly aware of the homeless student population, we're proud to provide this grant in support of the Florida homeless student liaisons. Their work is key to supporting these students academically and socially."

Each school district has homeless education liaisons who identify and report homeless students, make sure the students enroll in school, and link them with additional support, including preschool, health, and transportation services. The fund will also help liaisons implement new programs to serve homeless unaccompanied youth in their districts.

In the 2011-2012 school year, Florida school districts identified 63,685 homeless students, an increase of 12 percent from the previous school year. Of that number, about 11 percent or 6,798 were considered "unaccompanied youth."