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About Homelessness

Students at ACCESS Academy inspire school to build care kits


Students interact with Sunita Szabo during a Care Kit presentation.

“Why don’t we just feed them?” “Can we help them get a home?” “Why didn’t you stop and help them?” These are just some of the compassionate, yet very important questions a couple of us on staff here at Portland Rescue Mission have heard our kids say before. They are also questions that some of the kids we had the pleasure of meeting recently not only responded to themselves, but acted on accordingly.

We shared our first Care Kit  presentation at a school. Third and Fourth grade kids from ACCESS Academy welcomed us, and were interested in hearing about homelessness and how to create care kits for their community.

These students are some of the brightest in the city. ACCESS Academy exists for kids who perform at the 99th percentile on nationally normed tests for aptitude and/or achievement.

In a third grade class, you might find a 6-year-old that is way ahead of other children his age.

The students were engaged during the morning, raising their hands when Sunita Szabo, Project Management Coordinator for Portland Rescue Mission, asked them questions. “How many of you ate breakfast this morning?” “Have you seen someone experiencing homelessness?”

The kids had some amazing comments and insights as well. One child asked if all those who are homeless were so because of addiction. Another child said that chewy granola bars were a better option to pack in a kit because a homeless person probably lost their home and can’t pay their dental bills, so they probably don’t have very good teeth.

One fourth grade girl announced that her family was going to a shelter on Christmas to bake a cake. Another asked if she could make care kits at other times of the year too.


A student drew a picture with a message to go in a care kit for someone facing homelessness: “I hope you will be happy after you get the bag. P.S. Happy Holidays!”

A third grade student left us a note card with a picture and message of encouragement to go in a kit for someone.

During the workshop for the fourth grade students, the teachers decided they wanted to inspire the entire school to participate. As a school, the students will be collecting items for care kits: hats, socks, gloves, snacks. They will host a packing day to assemble the care kits together.

These are intelligent kids. Intelligent in their mind. We want to shape them to be intelligent in their heart as well — to see people and care.

These students are also champions for the Mission, maybe some of the best. They will grow up and be leaders, world-changers, great thinkers, writers, speakers, scientist, mathematicians, and so much more. And most importantly, these students are going to impact Portland mightily as well as the world. Big thanks to Access Academy students for inspiring us.

If you want to follow in the example of the students at ACCESS Academy, you too can learn how to build care kits at PortlandRescueMission.org/CareKit.