Hundreds of homeless students receive donations through app with help of Johnston County Public Schools

SMITHFIELD, N.C. (WTVD) -- Johnston County Public Schools is using an app to help homeless students struggling during the pandemic.

The district posts specific needs of homeless students and their families on the Purposity app, while keeping students' identities private.

Requests include such things as detergent (so they can have clean clothes at school), cleaning supplies and bed frames.

Community members can fulfill the requests and Amazon ships them to the district, which gets them to students and their families.

"We're able to really connect parents with those things that other people may not think of as luxury items, but having kitchen towels in your kitchen is a luxury item that they may not be able to afford," said Charity Pate, Johnston County Public Schools Social Worker.

Britney Gibson, the district's McKinney Vento and Foster Care Liaison, said the district has identified more than 260 homeless students and expects to identify about 400 by the end of the school year.

"It took a while for us to figure out best ways to identify students being homeless, just when we were in the stages of working remotely and identifying families, but as our counselors and social workers have gotten the hang of it, I think we've done a really good job of identifying these students and getting these...needs met as soon as possible," Gibson said.

Gibson and Pate describe the types of reactions they get from students and their families.

"The father came and picked up the bed and bed frame, and was overwhelmed," Gibson said. "As soon as he got to the home, he sent me photos, messages of it set up in his child's room like 'I can't wait to see her face when she gets home.'"

"When I delivered the bed in a bag which included the bedsheets, the quilt, the pillowcases, all of that, she had tears in her eyes and said, 'I haven't had new bedsheets in 10 years,'" Pate said. '"This is such a blessing.' So it's one of those things that we're able to connect generous people in the community to practical needs that our students have."

If you want to help, you can download the Purposity app from the App Store or Google Play and follow Johnston County Public Schools.
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