Food on the table, a doctor’s appointment, a safe home, keeping the lights on, applying to college, filing taxes. This is a pretty busy to-do list for any Tucson family living in poverty. Assuming you had transportation, it would still take hours of driving around the city just to find help with each of these necessary basics. At Desert View High School, I have been working to bring some of these resources together so that in one night a family can sign up for nutrition assistance, health insurance, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for college, and have their taxes done by a trained professional.
Bundling services together like this during a resource night is one way that my project hopes to help people in poverty. By offering a wide range of services at the same location we can remove some of the barriers like time and transportation that prevent people from getting help when they need it. Furthermore, by bringing the resources directly to the students in the school where they will come regardless, we can serve families where they already are.
At our first resource night this spring we had specialists from the United Way of Tucson provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enrollment, health insurance or Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) enrollment, FAFSA assistance, and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). While only a few people trickled in that first night, a month later we had 15 families arrive within an hour and the United Way specialists had barely a second to breathe between performing each service.
Organizing these resource nights at Desert View High School has been one way I have worked to help students and their families succeed. For the rest of the year I hope to bring even more services into the school and host even larger events with a wide array of support and partnerships from community organizations. After all, everyone has to go to school, so let us meet people where they are at.