New program launching to help hundreds of homeless Roanoke Valley students

By Jenna Zibton - Anchor

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - More than 500 children in the Roanoke school system remain homeless but there is a new program launching this month hoping to change that.  RYSE stands for Rehousing Youth for Success in Education.

The numbers are heartbreaking. More than 200 families with school aged children are homeless and Roanoke City Superintendent Dr. Rita Bishop says more than half are under the age of 12.

"No child should be homeless. No child should ever be hungry and we can attack a lot of those secondary needs but housing is a huge issue," said Dr. Rita Bishop, Roanoke City School Superintendent.

About 80-percent of the families are not eligible for government support because they aren't living on the streets. Instead they couch surf with friends or family or live in motels. Dr. Bishop says providing stability is the key.

"As much as we possibly can is we don't move students are around, we keep them in the school they started out in and if you read the national statistics it is the more you move, the less likely you are to be successful in school and ultimately to graduate," said Dr. Bishop.

Less than a quarter of homeless students in the Commonwealth graduate from high school. The United Way is teaming up with other organizations to find housing by the start of the 2016 school year and attack the problem at the root. United Way President and CEO Afira DeVries says most homelessness is caused by domestic issues like substance abuse or they fall on hard economic times.

"Every family is going to have their unique struggle and the goal here is to figure out what caused the problems and help provide them with support so they no longer face those issues," said DeVries.

You can sponsor a family by providing donations. The program officially launches May 26th with a  big 30 day fundraising push. It will cost $1.8 million to transition all families in need. More information on RYSE: http://www.uwrv.org/ryse

More information on United Way Celebration and Red Nose Day event: www.uwrv.org/celebration

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