Norm’s Nook Provides Support for Homeless and Needy Students

By Daniel Bodden

Norm’s Nook is a place at FHN specifically designated to provide items for students in the FHN community such as school supplies, clothes, and hygiene items. Any paper-page-photo-pg.11student needing assistance with items like these can get access to Norm’s Nook by talking to one of their teachers. The program was started by FACS teacher Sara White about seven years ago.

“Norm’s Nook is sort of like a Plato’s Closet just for the community of FHN, except everything is free,” White said. “There are clothes for every size and season for males and females, backpacks, shoes, even Homecoming and Prom dresses.”

White got the idea while at a faculty meeting a few years ago. The poverty level was being discussed, and according to White, during that year there were 15 percent of students at or below poverty level based on participation in the free and reduced lunch program.

“I kept thinking about how the economy was in the tank and the job market was suffering,” White said. “I couldn’t give them jobs, I couldn’t pay their mortgage, I couldn’t buy them groceries. Everyone needs warm clothes and school supplies to be successful. I thought if we could help meet the basic needs, maybe they could meet their needs on a bigger level.”

Some of the students who access Norm’s Nook are homeless students. According to Guidance Counselor Jennifer Schwarz, there are currently 14 homeless students out of the 1,720 total students at FHN. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development considers any individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence as being homeless.

“I bet people don’t really think about it,” Schwarz said. “[Homeless youth] are kind of invisible because it’s not something people talk about. When someone’s friends or family aren’t in that situation, they may not realize. I can see people making comments that they wouldn’t think are hurtful.”

Homeless youth may live with other family members, move from home to home, live with friends, or be part of a program like Youth in Need (YIN). YIN offers services ranging from Safe Place, located at businesses such as Walgreen’s and QuikTrip where youth can go in a crisis situation, an emergency shelter, transitional living support, and a street outreach team.

“A lot of youth don’t realize that their friend who ‘couch surfs’ is classified as homeless and are entitled to certain rights and supports,” Regional Safe Place Manager Karen Sieve said. “We work with these young people to show them that even though it’s tough, it’s temporary. We focus on what they are doing right and help them to become self sufficient.”

For White, her Norm’s Nook project is about more than just helping homeless and needy students with just tangible support and meeting physical needs.

“I had the privilege of taking a student down last year and with tears in her eyes she said, ‘I’ve never been at a school that cares about people the way you care about people,’” White said. “More than anything, we want kids to know we care about them and that we’ll do things beyond classroom instruction to impact their lives. We want to show them that the world isn’t actually as ugly as it seems.”