Shuttle service for homeless students extended after public backlash

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A new shuttle service that transports homeless students in D.C.’s overflow family shelters to nearby Metro stations for their commute to school will be extended to the end of the school year in June. The pilot program began in January and was originally set to end in mid-March, WAMU reported. 

D.C. officials announced the decision after backlash from community members and D.C. councilmember Mary Cheh surrounding the service’s ending, which was originally scheduled for March 13. 

In a letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser dated Feb. 24, Cheh urged her to consider extending the program, citing benefits that would heavily outweigh the necessary spending. 

“Providing shuttle service through June would cost around $200,000, a drop in the bucket compared to the benefit this service will provide to families,” Cheh wrote. That level of funding should also cover the cost of running the service from late August through September, so shuttles are available for the start of School Year 2020-2021.” 

 The shuttle transports about 50 people each week from two motels on New York Avenue Northeast that are contracted to shelter families beyond the capacity of the city’s facilities, according to WAMU. D.C. is legally required to provide shelter for anyone when temperatures become dangerously cold, but Department of Human Services Director Laura Zeilinger expanded DHS policy in 2015 to provide year-round shelter for families. 

 Among the 93,708 students who attended a D.C. public school in the 2018-19 school year, over 8% experienced homelessness at least once in that span, according to data from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. 

 In her letter, Cheh recommended that permanent funding be identified for the service in the fiscal year 2021 budget under the purview of the deputy mayor for education. The mayor’s proposed budget will be released March 19 and public hearings to review D.C. Council’s markup of the budget will begin April 21. 

Issues |Education|Transportation

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