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Program provides help for kids in homeless shelters

Not only do the kids get the chance to be kids, but the program also works with parents, giving them the opportunity to break the cycle.

The goal of any early childhood program is to get kids ready for school, to be prepared for kindergarten, but in the Project secure program at PICA Head Start there's another layer.

“Our purpose really is to provide a safe, stable, and nurturing environment for infants, toddlers and their families while they experience homelessness,” says Rico Alexander, Head Start Director for Hennepin County.

Some of the kiddos here have no place to call home. They are picked up from shelters across the city and brought to a place that is not only focused on learning, but on taking care of the child on the social, emotional and physical levels.

“We never know from one day to the next what child will present themselves in our program, so while they're here, we're trying to screen, and assess, identify any concerns that children may have, so that we can initiate any kind of therapy while they're here and enrolled in the program,” says Alexander.

Not only do the kids get the chance to be kids, to interact with others, to learn, but the program also works with parents, giving them the opportunity to break the cycle. It's the whole family approach that attracted a grant from the Department of Human Services.

“They can know their children are safe, and at the same time, go out and get job counseling, coaching on life skills, transportation to go to job interviews, or to go to housing interviews, to try to find the housing,” says Lisa Bayley, Acting Assistant Commissioner Children and Family Services.

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PICA Head Start got one of 25 grants from DHS, designed to help families experiencing homelessness.
Some three million dollars that will hopefully have an impact in the lives of our most vulnerable assets...our kids. And, at the time of their lives that has an incredible impact on their future.

“Sometimes they're in shelters because life threw them a curveball and unfortunately, they ended up there, but they all want to get out of there,” says Alexander.

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