In the wake of Hurricane Ian, two individuals helped offer assistance to the affected families and students. Meet Lisa Bratton, the Families in Transition Manager, and Susan Flores, the Coordinator of Social Work and Mental Health Services, who have devoted countless hours to offering support, resources, and compassion to families in need.
Susan Flores is an essential figure in identifying students in schools who need mental health support and making sure they get the resources they need. She sees her role as an extension of the mental health system, collaborating with school social workers to give struggling students the best care possible.
Lisa Bratton, the Families in Transition Manager, specializes in working with homeless students and families, providing them with essential support during their difficult circumstances. Lisa's role involves removing barriers to education, supporting families in transition, and accompanying homeless youth throughout their educational journey.
The contributions of Susan and Lisa go far beyond their specific responsibilities as they each contribute significantly to building the community. Lisa acknowledges the important influence her work has on the lives of homeless students and families, while Susan describes her objective as a dedication to student achievement and education. Their combined efforts give students the tools they need to face challenges head-on and make sure that education is a constant in their lives.
When Hurricane Ian approached, both Susan and Lisa were gripped by concerns for the vulnerable families and students in their care. Susan expressed deep worry about families losing their homes, while Lisa, who had already been working with displaced and homeless individuals, was anxious about their safety during the storm. They both went above and beyond their duties to locate families and ensure their well-being.
Susan and Lisa experienced a range of emotions as they observed the storm's aftermath. Lisa expressed surprise at the number of people who managed to avoid harm, given the widespread devastation and fear caused by the hurricane. The ongoing difficulties of those still unable to return to their homes remains a cause of great concern for both individuals. However, they also expressed gratitude that recovery efforts progressed faster than expected.
Regarding the damages inflicted on schools, both Susan and Lisa noted that many of them incurred some degree of damage. Schools such as L.A. Ainger, Myakka River Elementary, Kingsway Elementary, Deep Creek Elementary, Port Charlotte High, and Port Charlotte Middle were particularly affected. The immediate challenge for CCPS after the hurricane was to ensure a swift return to school for students. Apart from education, schools also serve as a source of food and stability for many students, necessitating a quick and safe reopening. Families faced many hardships, including displacement and lack of resources.
When asked about the number of students impacted by homelessness or troubled home lives after the storm, Lisa revealed that they had certified 1,018 homeless students during this year. This is an additional 500+ students requiring assistance than in a normal school year. Additionally, she acknowledged the likelihood of missed cases and anticipated discovering additional displaced students during the upcoming school year.
By utilizing their generous community support, CCPS actively helps students who are experiencing homelessness or troubled home life. Lisa emphasized the generous donations that are provided, which allows them to let students take part in extracurricular activities that they otherwise might not have been able to afford. The costs of tutoring and aftercare are funded by a homeless grant, and essential services are offered to keep kids engaged in their studies.
Susan and Lisa express worry about possible trauma and triggers over the forthcoming school year. Families' inability to find secure housing and their lack of access to other alternatives for relocating continue to be major obstacles. They do, however, also see opportunities that come with the rehabilitation process. The lessons learned and the collaboration with various agencies have expanded their knowledge and highlighted areas where further support can be provided to affected individuals.
With their persistent dedication to the students and families of Charlotte County, Susan and Lisa represent the spirit of resiliency and compassion that characterizes their positions. They provide a ray of hope and assistance to a community trying to rebuild and overcome hardship as they continue to deal with the difficulties caused by Hurricane Ian.
About the LTRG
The Charlotte County Long-Term Recovery Group works to coordinate recovery services and build resiliency for individuals, families, and entities adversely impacted by Hurricane Ian in Charlotte County. Its purpose is to engage the community and create a vision while re-imagining the systems and landscape of our community. A plan will be created and published in the Fall of 2023. For more information, please contact us at LTRteam@gulfcoastpartnership.org.
About Families in Transition
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is a federal law that protects the educational rights of students (PreK-12) who have lost housing and are living in transition. The goal of the Homeless Education Project is to uphold the McKinney-Vento Act by removing barriers that might prevent students experiencing homelessness from enrolling, attending and succeeding in school and ensure equal access to the same free, appropriate public education as provided to other youth. To contact Families in Transition of Charlotte County contact 941-255-7480 ext. *1928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.