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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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SPS is seeking gift card donations this holiday season to help Spokane homeless students

Nov. 29, 2021 Updated Tue., Nov. 30, 2021 at 6:18 p.m.

The Spokane Public Schools district office at Main Avenue and Bernard Street.  (JESSE TINSLEY)
The Spokane Public Schools district office at Main Avenue and Bernard Street. (JESSE TINSLEY)

Spokane Public Schools is seeking gift card donations from the public to help more than 150 students who are not only homeless, but are without a parent or guardian.

The gift card drive, which runs through Dec. 8, is coordinated by the district’s Homeless Education and Resource Team, which serves more than 600 students in temporary, transitional or homeless living situations.

The priority, according to HEART liaison Sarah Miller, is on secondary students who lack other resources.

“Once you turn 13, there aren’t as many resources, so that’s why we’re focusing on that age group,” said Miller, who tries to match the donations to the needs of each students.

Those needs vary, Miller said. However, gift cards from larger stores such as Fred Meyer or Target would give students flexibility in how the money is spent.

“That wide variety of gift cards is very important,” said Miller, who noted that many homeless students are struggling to meet basic needs such as food and clothing.

The program has been running for at least 10 years. Last year it raised $6,675 – an average of about $45 per homeless student.

Gift cards can be mailed to Spokane Public Schools, in care of the Communications Department, 200 North Bernard St., Spokane, WA 99201.

They also may be dropped off at the district administration building at the same address.

People can also make a donation to the HEART Trust account, whose funds pay for things above and beyond basic educational needs – like tickets to dances, yearbooks and clothing.

Miller said that officially, the number of “unaccompanied youth” is slightly lower than in recent years.

However, the pandemic has “changed our ability to connect with some of them,” she said.

Homeless students are coping with a variety of living situations.

Some are living in motels or campgrounds, others in emergency or transitional shelters. Others have been abandoned in hospitals.

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