Meet the woman helping Nampa students experiencing homelessness, poverty

Posted at 4:19 PM, Nov 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-18 19:26:22-05

NAMPA — If you’re living in a shelter or don’t have food to eat on the weekends or access to basic necessities, it can be hard to focus on school. That’s the reality some students in Nampa face as young as elementary age.

Ofelia Sullivan is there to help families and students experiencing those struggles.

“Since we are gearing up for the winter, we are needing tons of jackets, and we did get a donation through the fire department in Nampa," said Sullivan.

As the Community Resource Coordinator, Ofelia Sullivan has to wear many hats, but her main one is making sure families in Nampa have them to wear, or actually, coats, shoes, and the other basic necessities.

“In this room I try to make it positive, outgoing, I try to connect with them on a personal level," said Sullivan, "I don’t really try to do ‘you’re just here for food,' I want to connect with them kind of learn who they share my life with them a little so they know I'm here for them."

Last year, 63% of the district was on the free and reduced program. Being Snake River is a low-income school; this center aims to provide access to food, clothes, and everything in between.

“Housing I think that’s the number one need we have, a lot of our families resort to shelters but just helping them find a place to rent or a house to buy is our biggest resource, and transportation and from work and doctors appointments I think that is a need we are focusing on," said Sullivan.

They are seeing an increase in the use of community school centers, according to the federal programs director for the Nampa School District. In part, it's related to the rising costs of living in the Treasure Valley, and not all families in this district can manage those costs.

“We ended last year with around 1300 homeless families, and as of right now have 900, that number continues to grow throughout the year because we continue to identify throughout the year," said Heid Rahn, federal programs director for the district.

Ofelia’s center is a no-judgment zone, and she works with the principal, teachers, and school social workers to make sure the kids that come to her are ready to learn.

“Every life is different, you know I can't just judge somebody that's not [what] I'm here for, I'm here to help them," said Sullivan.