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Students help peers 'out of a jam' with program

Collecting quarters allows children to learn about homelessness, founder says

By ERIN WALDNER Californian staff writer

e-mail: ewaldner@bakersfield

It's not only adults who are homeless. Children are, too.

It's estimated there are between 80,000 and 95,000 homeless children in the state, according to California Housing Advocates.

Russell Travis, a sociology professor at Cal State Bakersfield, is working with local students to reduce those numbers, ideally to zero.

Travis is launching an after-school program in Greenfield where elementary and middle-school students will deposit quarters into Mason jars labeled "Helping Others Out Of A Pickle" and "Helping Others Out Of A Jam." The money raised will go to homeless families with children, Travis said.

"Those quarters go for kids. It's kids helping kids," he said.

In the process, he said students will learn about homelessness.

"Iíve been wanting to educate children about homelessness, to give them hands-on experience," Travis said. "It's good to start their education early, to raise their awareness."

He expects to have the program, called Quarters4Kids, fully underway in the next week or so. He said parents are already dropping coins into the jars.

He hopes to expand the program to other school districts in Bakersfield.

Quarters4Kids is an offshoot of Travis' Homeless Quarters Inc., a non-profit organization that raises money to help move people off the streets and out of shelters and into housing of their own. The group's plastic coin banks ó in the shape of houses ó are stationed at many businesses around town.

Travis founded Homeless Quarters in 2002. The group raised between $8,000 and $10,000 last year, he said.

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