Helping homeless children thrive

Home Away's programs are as follows:

The School House: Based in Fort Mason, this is an after-school program for middle-school students. Every afternoon, when students come to the School House, there are volunteers to help them with their homework and to prepare a hit meal that is shared together as a community.

And, of course, there is good, old-fashioned play time in a safe and secure environment. School House students also take a number of educational and recreational field trips each year - such seeing a theatrical production or going white-water rafting. The program operates every school day through the year, in addition to scheduling some summertime activities.

The Beach House: At Rodeo Beach, in the Marin Headlands, Home Away has a beach house where six days a week children living in one of the city's homeless shelters take a trip to the beach and spend a day just being a kid.

The children come in small groups, typically about a half a dozen a day, and are accompanied by the Beach House leader and a few volunteers. The emphasis is strictly on fun - board games, playing dress up, dipping a toe (or more!) in the ocean and more as a way of relieving the stress these children encounter in daily life.

Youth Leadership: The Youth Leadership program, which also operates out of Fort Mason, consists of students who have graduated from the School House and wish to continue their growth and development by participating in Home Away's programs.

The emphasis here on academics and community service, with the ultimate goal of helping the students graduate from high school and get into college.

Students meet daily after school to take advantage of a computer lab where they do their homework and school projects, and to share a hot meal cooked by volunteers. The students also plan and execute community service projects - many of them geared toward helping the younger students in the school house.

The program is funded, in part, but a CHALK grant that allows students to earn a stipend for completing their school, community service and program assignments. In the process, they learn many of the same skills they will need to thrive in the workplace.

Mentorship: The mentorship program pairs students with volunteers who agree to establish and maintain a long-term mentoring relationship. Students and mentors get together regularly for a variety of activities, providing a confidante and companion so often missing in the lives of these children.

Educational advocacy: Home Away employs an education advocate to work on behalf of students in its programs to make sure that the public schools are providing all the services these children - many of whom have special circumstances or needs - are entitled to receive and need to thrive.

About Jeanie Kortum:

Jeanie Kortum is the author of the novel Ghost Vision, loosely based on her experience living in a Greenland village at the top of the world. She researched her next novel, Stones, by joining a hunter-gatherer tribe in Africa.

In 1994, in partnership with the National Park Service, she founded A Home Away from Homelessness, an organization dedicated to helping homeless children. Profiled by CBS News, Kortum is also a journalist. She makes her home in Northern CA.

About A Home Away From Homelessness:

A Home Away From Homelessness is a San Francisco-based nonprofit that serves children who are, or have been, without a home. Home Away serves more than 400 children each year through programs committed to providing the personal attention and skills young people need to succeed and break out of the cycle of homelessness.

The organization is one of the many non-profit partners of the National Park Service, which leases Home Away its buildings in Fort Mason and at Rodeo Beach.

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