The Problem

A Lack of Access to Basic Materials for Low-Income Children & Families

Empty classroom

One of the most prevalent symptoms of poverty is a lack of access to basic material needs that are necessary for maintaining good physical and mental health, academic achievement, basic dignity and comfort. These needs can range from diapers for the baby of a mother on CalWORKS (welfare) to school and hygiene supplies for a homeless student. Statewide, the problem is constant and requires a collaborative and systematic response.

Example Case: Unmet Material Needs of Homeless Kids Reflect Gap in Safety Net

During the 2014-2015 academic year there were nearly 300,000 homeless children and youth identified in California schools, and millions more who were low-income (free/reduced lunch eligible). Based on surveys and feedback from parents, teachers, social workers, school nurses and others, it is clear that many of these children lack basic, needed materials for good health, academic achievement and other areas of development. This lack of supplies not only prevents these kids from completing their classwork, but also leaves them feeling marginalized and disconnected from their schools. These feelings contribute to a lack of focus in school and can lead to kids skipping school altogether.

According to a recent survey of 125 homeless liaisons, representing more than 70% of California’s homeless children and youth, they indicated that an overwhelming majority of this student population does not have basic material needs met.

Existing Efforts in California Aren’t Meeting the Need

Despite years of efforts from hundreds of nonprofit, faith-based and school-based efforts, the problem remains.

Existing Efforts

While there are hundreds of small efforts throughout the state working to address this problem in their local communities, they are in large part isolated, unable to generate substantial market power and seldom coordinate with their local school district, the one entity that can systematically identify each child to keep track of who is in need. The unmet need for basic materials leaves teachers and social workers to devote their limited time and resources trying to get supplies for their kids in need. In fact, surveys have established that the typical California teacher spends more than $1,000 each year out-of-pocket on supplies their students, and the typical school district homeless liaison spends 45 hours of their staff time per year trying to find materials for kids in need.

“Every child deserves to start the year off with the supplies needed to be successful academically. Teachers have provided feedback about how these supplies have increased students overall self-esteem, which leads to better academic outcomes.”California Homeless Liaison