In 2001, Sally Bindley recognized that her city, Indianapolis, had a big problem. There were children slipping through the cracks in education. These were smart, capable children, but they also happened to be homeless for various reasons. Instead of ignoring the problem, like others might have, Bindley jumped in to help.
She took to the streets and began tracking down homeless children to tutor them. What she found was an outpouring of love and appreciation. Soon after, Bindley founded her nonprofit School on Wheels. Their first year, they hired two part-time staff members and 11 volunteers to tutor 50 homeless children at two shelters. It was the first organization in the area to work with homeless youth.
Soon word got out, and other shelters were requesting School on Wheels. Today, a couple of “full-timers” and 400 volunteers run the “school.” What exactly do they do?
Kids who come to their tutoring sessions get new school supplies, a new backpack and even new school uniforms. They receive free tutoring and mentoring which helps show them the importance of education. Children who attend often undergo a dramatic transformation. They gain confidence, grow their academic skills and are given hope for the future.
As for their parents, School on Wheels even tries to help them. They recognize the hardships that can lead to living on the streets or in a car. Even living in a shelter is tough. They know it’s not easy to save money and support a family. Because of that, School on Wheels started a parent advocacy program called “Ignite Learning” in 2008. It teaches parents the skills they need to enable their child to learn.
Over time, the organization has grown. They now provide outreach and work to educate the public about poverty and homelessness. It can be a difficult topic to discuss. Sometimes families are ashamed, but School on Wheels is their advocate. They are always looking for ways to engage in conversation and help out.