A Father Joe’s Villages truck. Courtesy of the charity

Father Joe’s Villages Monday unveiled a program to support distance learning for children experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The San Diego-based homeless services provider is seeking to raise $200,000 for the Distance Learning Fund to assist more than 150 school-age children, according to president and CEO Deacon Jim Vargas.

Donations to the fund will allow Father Joe’s Villages Therapeutic Childcare Center staff to work with residents and school officials to ensure that each child has a school-issued device. Backup laptops and tablets will be available to students as needed.

The program will also provide virtual learning areas, with appropriately spaced desks and tables, reliable Wi-Fi, assistance with navigating online learning platforms, earbuds with microphones for every student, school supplies such as visual aids, art supplies, pens, paper and materials needed for science labs and class projects, Vargas said.

The program will also provide a classroom coordinator and an educational coordinator to assist children with technology and tutoring and support parents in overseeing their children’s virtual school assignments.

Vargas said in normal circumstances, children experiencing homelessness are four times more likely to have delayed development and twice as likely to repeat a school grade than their housed classmates.

However, with San Diego County school districts limiting classroom education due to COVID-19, distance learning only makes catching up more difficult for children at Father Joe’s Villages, partly because the families overcoming homelessness face additional challenges with online learning and lack the appropriate access to the technology needed, Vargas said.

“Distance learning is a challenge within itself and many of our parents struggle with helping their children while also trying to secure employment and find housing,” said Jennifer Ryan, manager at the Therapeutic Childcare Center.

“That’s why we are working closely with parents and children to provide additional support and ensure they have the technology they need. This will help the children learn more effectively during their online lessons each day.”

— City News Service

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