Lecture discusses issues of homeless

by Nathan Whalen

Many students who normally spend their afternoons sleeping, studying or eating in Coffman Union found themselves listening to a lecture on homelessness and the education of homeless children in the Twin Cities on Thursday.
A major issue facing many homeless families is the lack of affordable housing — Minneapolis has a 1.1 percent vacancy rate.
Some families rotate through various shelters because they can’t find housing within the time they are allowed to stay in a shelter, said Cindy Murphy Kelley, executive director of the Learning Center, a transition school for homeless children in Minneapolis.
“Forty percent of people in shelters are working full time,” Murphy Kelley said at the lecture.
Another theme in Murphy Kelley’s talk, which took place in Coffman’s Fireplace Lounge, was how people rotate in and out of homelessness.
“The biggest indicator of homelessness as an adult is homelessness as a child,” she said.
Many students became interested in the discussion.
“I just came here to eat lunch and was sort of drawn in,” said Lisa Ebeltoft-Kraske, a history graduate student. She became involved in the lecture when she heard about the relation between childhood and adult homelessness.
The Learning Center was formed in 1988 to address the educational needs of homeless children. Murphy Kelley said that the center sees 40 to 50 kindergarten through sixth-grade children a day. Many of these children, who attend the center for up to three months, are one to three years behind in school.
Murphy Kelley said the center instructs several fifth and sixth-graders who can’t read at all. And because of different education levels, it is common to have several grades of students sharing the same class and learning the same material.
The Learning Center has a theme-based curriculum which focuses on teaching reading, math, writing and basic social skills. The center tries to provide a secure environment and works to minimize verbal abuse.
Cary Yang, member of Coffman’s Forum Committee said that the committee sponsored the event because “the student body and faculty should be more sympathetic to the homeless.”