Helping struggling families high priority for school district

Domineca Dault, outreach and diversion specialist from Mel Trotter Ministries, chats with a couple of Sparta students about what it is like to be homeless and still need to go to school

Families that have no consistent place to live is one of the fastest growing demographics of homelessness. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that nearly 30% of those experiencing homelessness live outside of cities.

Mel Trotter Ministries is working to provide outreach programs in Northern Kent County through the services of Outreach and Diversion Specialist Domineca Dault. She coordinates with district liaisons in multiple school districts. 

Domineca Dault, outreach and diversion specialist from Mel Trotter Ministries, holds regular hours at Appleview Elementary

Sparta Area Schools recently opened office space at Appleview Elementary for Dault to meet with families in crisis. 

“It is wonderful that I have regular visits here,” she said. “The kids see me around and get to know me, and that can make it less scary when there is a problem.”

Dault said that the most recent statistics (2018) Sparta identified 62 students, who experienced homelessness, with families sleeping in cars, tents, motels, uninhabitable dwellings, or doubling or even tripling up with other families. 

Within the last month in Sparta, she said, she was able to find temporary housing for a family, helped another with food and fuel assistance so they could continue to pay their rent, and helped find reliable transportation for a parent to get to work.

Having an outreach specialist from Mel Trotter available to Kent ISD schools was started as a pilot program just over two years ago, Dault said. This is the first year she is on site on a regular basis.

Communities near Sparta have multiple organizations and houses of worship that offer a variety of service options, such as food distribution, heating assistance and temporary housing. 

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Janice Holst
Janice Holst has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and is thrilled to spend some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio or email Janice.

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