SHU to host panel on challenges faced by homeless students

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — What are the implications of homelessness for students and families, and how can schools and law enforcement improve coordination and communication to better support families in response to the crisis? The College of Education and Human Services at Seton Hall University explores this vital issue with a panel discussion, “Meeting the Needs of Students and Families Experiencing Eviction and Homelessness: Opportunities for Improved Coordination among Schools, Law Enforcement & the Community,” on Wednesday, Nov. 15, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in Jubilee Hall’s fourth-floor atrium.

Recent figures estimate that there are more than 1.3 million homeless students in the United States today. Beyond the trauma of eviction itself, the process can trigger a chain of events that severely impacts people’s chances to regain stable housing and improve their economic conditions.

Leo Ricketts, a senior history major, will be a featured panelist speaking about his own firsthand experiences. He, along with his mother, experienced homelessness from 6 to 8 years old and then again for a period of two years beginning at age 13. It was during the latter time that he moved among a series of shelters in and around Paterson and Newark. Today, as a college student, he commutes from public housing where noise and other distractions make it difficult to find a quiet place to study. He often remains on campus and utilizes the library for intensive assignments. Hunger is another link in the chain of events that can affect academic performance, but Ricketts has developed strategies to succeed in the face of these challenges, including reliance on support from Seton Hall.

“I’ve become comfortable in uncomfortable situations,” Ricketts said.

“We will not find solutions to this issue in one panel discussion. The purpose here is to share and leverage knowledge and build better communication across all channels. One question we need to discuss is just about what teachers, principals and community institutions really know. Working together will foster conversation. That is our goal for the night,” Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj, associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, Management and Policy and moderator for the panel, said.

The program is part of the “One Book, One College” initiative, which holds events in support of the award-winning book “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” by Matthew Desmond. It is not necessary to have read the book in order to attend this event.

Additional panelists include James Walters, retired detective sergeant and current ELMP student, and Jeanna Velechko, Lincoln Rutherford School principal.

This event is open to the public. RSVP to Seton Hall University is located at 400 South Orange Ave., South Orange.