The William S. Hart Union High School District has been facing an increase in registered students who are homeless — and the Santa Clarita Valley’s Rotary Club has been utilizing all its resources to assist these children in the best ways they can.
Seeing this need and increase in homeless students, the SCV Rotary Club has stepped in to work directly with the district’s social workers to provide any resources needed for these children and their families.
“They take pride in having that direct contact with us because we know the families the best, and making sure that the money they fundraise goes to families that really need them,” said Elizabeth Orozco, a social worker at Placerita Junior High School.
Each season the Rotary Club asks the social workers what the kids and their families need.
In the spring it was prom dresses, caps and gowns. The fall was school supplies. Last holiday season, it was clothing.
This holiday season, they are asking for food.
“Between a Rotary District 5280 Community Grant and fundraising efforts from our local Holiday Boutique, $3,000 is going toward 30 gift cards at Vallarta for 30 families to make this holiday season a little easier, a little more joyful,” said Jason Downs, SCV Rotary Club’s public relations chair.
Orozco’s first connection with the Rotary Club was identifying a student to them who had recently lost her father due to COVID-19.
The girl and her mother were struggling to pay rent and the mother could not read or write, and she was losing her eyesight due to a diabetic condition.
The SCV Rotary Club presented the student a scholarship to help.
“There’s this conception of Santa Clarita that only wealthy people live here and that’s not true, it has its areas where we have a lot of families and students that have high needs,” said Orozco.
According to Orozco, the Hart district has more than 900 homeless students with approximately 400 of those students concentrated at Hart High School and Placerita Junior High.
She clarified that students identified as “experiencing homelessness” are not all, by a traditional definition, homeless. They are also those who are living with multiple people to pay rent, struggling with costs of living and other necessary financial charges.
The number of homeless students spiked after the COVID-19 pandemic, Orozco added. The district’s community partners such as the Rotary Club are important to address the issue and support these students and their families, she said.
“The work these women (the social workers) do, along with the tremendous support of the Hart school district, is amazing,” said Downs.
Those wishing to donate to The Rotary Club of SCV’s cause can do so via Venmo, @scvrotary, with the memo, “Help Students!”