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When home is a homeless shelter for online learning

Children who would normally be in school are learning online at Clare House.
Children who would normally be in school are learning online at Clare House.(KTUU)
Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 11:26 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Many Anchorage families are struggling with their children learning online at home. But what if “home” is actually a homeless shelter? That’s the case for people residing at Clare House, an Anchorage Shelter run by Catholic Social Services which serves women and their children.

Shelter worker Carson Mesubed said there are about 45 people currently staying at the shelter which includes at least a dozen school-aged kids. For them, bedrooms double as classrooms for individual families.

Dora Menegak helps her son Kenny with online lessons at Clare House Shelter.
Dora Menegak helps her son Kenny with online lessons at Clare House Shelter.(KTUU)

That includes Dora Menegak’s 11-year-old son who is doing his Zoom lessons on top of his bed with an Anchorage School District issued computer. He is enrolled at Northwood Elementary but has never actually gone there since he and his mother arrived from Bethel just a few months ago. Menegak said the arrangement at the shelter is working pretty well, although it’s difficult to keep appointments in the morning to look for work, since she has to stay with her son when he has class. Still, she isn’t ready for the alternative of sending him back to school during COVID.

“Oh, my God that’s scary,” said Menegak. She fears if her son got sick, he would bring the virus back to the shelter. “And then we both will be sick and I won’t be able to find work.”

Carson Mesubed said the shelter is accepting fewer clients to make sure there is social distancing. He said the youngest children may need reminders to stay apart but overall the system seems to be working well.

“Since we haven’t had any cases here, I think we are doing a really good job,” he said.

Mesubed said people who would like to help can donate individually packaged snacks to the shelter for school-aged kids. He said cleaning supplies and toiletries are always needed as well.

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