Virtual learning could make it harder to identify students with difficult home lives

As students start the school year off with virtual learning, experts say it could be harder for teachers and staff to identify and help students with a difficult homelife.

According to the Covenant House Georgia, at least 3,300 young people experienced homelessness in the Atlanta area last year. The organization was able to help 1,800 with shelter, medical and mental health care, as well as help with their education.

"We really raise the bar and want young people to know that just because they're homeless doesn't mean they can’t obtain their dreams," said Kellie Glenn, Director of Development for the Covenant House Georgia.

Trinity Crowder is a resident of the Covenant House Georgia.

"I was homeless myself for like three months. I used to sleep at like bus stations and just anywhere I could find some peace," Crowder said.

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She experienced homelessness before with the entire family but she left home last year to escape.

"My mom she's an alcoholic so she drinks a lot and it got worse when I became a senior. It became an issue to the point where she became very abusive," Crowder said.

Earlier this year, Crowder attempted to end her life.

"I ended up stealing just some pills at the store, gulped them down, and woke up at Grady [Memorial] Hospital," Crowder said.

She was referred to the Covenant House Georgia.

"We get a lot of our students from referrals from schools, also other programs. They'll let us know that they may have a student that is experiencing homeless. Also, a lot of colleges," said Dr. Nichole Murray the Educational Researcher and Lead Instructor.

Teachers, counselors, and other staff are often able to pick up on signs that a student has a difficult home life.

But with a lot of schools doing virtual learning, these things might be more difficult to spot.

Which is why Dr. Nichole Murray says it'll be important for teachers to keep an eye out for signs that may be different than what they're used to seeing.

"A lot of students who are experiencing homelessness may lack some of the technology. Also, students who are experiencing homelessness might not always be able to make classes. Also, just being aware that for a lot of students, they were relying on food and lunch at the schools. So, if you have a student that might be emailing you about not having enough to eat, that could be another warning sign," Dr. Murray said.

She also suggests teachers take the time to simply ask students how things are going at home.

However, getting students to open up about the difficulties in their lives could be difficult. It's something Crowder knows firsthand.

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She said it's now more important than before to not be afraid to speak up and know help is out there.

"There's genuine good people out there that want to help you. I know when I was out there and dealing with homelessness and depression, just trying to figure it out on my own, I felt alone. I felt like I was going through it by myself. That's not the case at all," Crowder said.

Crowder is off to Valdosta University in the fall where she will study elementary education. She said the Covenant house Georgia has really helped her get on a path to pursuing her dreams.

You can find more information on the Covenant House Georgia and how to help them here