“Plans are currently in place to support various families but the financial costs are excessive and likely unsustainable over time. The ongoing financial and emotional stress makes it very difficult for our students to learn.” — Glen Smith
HALFMOON BAY — Glen Smith has taught in the Sunshine Coast school district for 35 years and over that time has seen many children and families in financial distress.
“Now It seems to be more and more every year,” the principal of the Halfmoon Bay Elementary school said.
But this year in the aftermath of COVID-19 “and with inflation and everything else, it’s skyrocketing. The number of families that are really, really struggling — it’s very bad.”
That struggle is to find enough money to eat and pay the rent, put gas in the car — an essential expense for people scattered across a rural area with minimal public transit — buy winter clothes, shoes, toilet paper, toothpaste.
“It’s just basic needs,” Smith said. “Families are going paycheque to paycheque struggling to pay their rent and everything else.
“The first few weeks of school were spent connecting with families and assessing their needs — lack of food, clothing, toiletries, even housing.
“Plans are currently in place to support various families but the financial costs are excessive and likely unsustainable over time. The ongoing financial and emotional stress makes it very difficult for our students to learn.”
Out of a school population of 200 children about a third of them need some form of help.
Schools are often the last resort for desperate families needing assistance. And often they become the agency for consolidating what support is available from local charities and businesses.
“We have a long tradition of supporting families in need. Our local Halfmoon Bay Community Association and our community schools have been very supportive. (However) at this point our local food banks cannot keep up with the extremely high demands.” Smith said.
The school is asking The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund for $5,000 to help support a number of children and families in crisis.
The fund operates the Adopt-A-School (AAS) program, which raises money to help schools feed and clothe children arriving at school hungry or in need of proper clothing. This year there have been in excess of 170 applications with requests from totalling almost $2 million.
“It’s incredible how much money we have used supporting families. We are finding more and more needing food and clothing,” Smith said.
Wendy White, the community school coordinator who operates her Wendy’s Drive-thru, where children pick up breakfast before school starts, said many more parents were reaching out for help.
“Often it’s just to get a little bit of help. Sometimes it’s to get them groceries at the end of the month while they are waiting for their paycheques.
“The price of everything has gone up so much so now we are helping them with gas money so they can transport their kids around,” White said.
By Gerry Bellett (email@example.com)