During a special meeting on Sept. 18, the Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 Board of Education unanimously approved a data-sharing agreement with the nonprofit Housing Forward that authorizes D200 to share student information with the organization.
The agreement, which Housing Forward already has with Oak Park Elementary Schools District 97, will allow the nonprofit to "proactively identify and enroll homeless families identified by District 200 and connect them to Housing Forward for assessment for diversion services and, if needed, development of a housing plan, financial counseling, stability services, for which they may be eligible," according to a memo drafted by D200 Supt. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams.
According to Illinois State Report Card data, students without permanent or adequate homes have made up between 1 and 2 percent of the student body at OPRF — or 33 to 66 students — in any given year since 2014.
Housing Forward, which is headquartered in Maywood, is an organization dedicated to providing comprehensive services and support for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Housing Forward is a member of the Oak Park Homelessness Coalition — a group of more than 30 organizations working to end homelessness. The coalition's aim is to "make homelessness rare, brief, and one time," according to Pruitt. D200 is also a member of the coalition.
As part of the data-sharing agreement, a parent consent form authorizes the district to share students' names, grades and the name and contact information of their parents. Parents have the ability to withdraw their consent at any time
"Involvement in the program is on a voluntary basis and not mandatory for the school district or family," Pruitt-Adams explained.
Housing Forward and its agents cannot share any information that identifies a student or parent/guardian "with any other person, organization, agency or school" without permission from the parent/guardian. It also cannot use a student's information for commercial or any other unauthorized purposes.
Pruitt-Adams explained that the overarching goal of the agreement is to connect homeless families that are part of the OPRF community with Housing Forward's services that are designed to transition people experiencing inadequate housing into more stable housing situations.
If district officials find out that the family of a student is experiencing housing hardship, they will connect them within eight weeks to Housing Forward so they can be screened for homeless prevention services.