Highlighted in the Public Justice Center’s advocacy for homeless youth in Baltimore was the need for both residential and educational components to serve adolescent males experiencing housing instability. According to Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools) officials, the annual number of identified homeless students has increased from 1,400 in 2009 to nearly 3,000. It is estimated that the number of homeless children is, in reality, more than double this amount. Among the most vulnerable are boys over age 13, who often are not eligible to live with families in shelters, or who are separated from their families and considered “unaccompanied youth.” Others are in danger of dropping out of school without a stable living environment: the high school graduation rate for African-American males in Baltimore City Public Schools is 62 percent, trailing the overall four-year rate of 69 percent.
With its college preparatory curriculum, Saint Frances Academy prides itself in embracing and educating City high school students with multiple socio-economic obstacles. In summer 2012, Saint Frances Academy, with the support of the Abell Foundation, renovated two homes adjacent to the school campus and launched a residential boarding and scholarship program for homeless young men from Baltimore City. The Father Joubert House opened that fall with seven students who were identified for the program based on their status as homeless and living in untenable situations, as well as attending City Schools.
Today, the Father Joubert House provides year-round housing, meals, activities and a scholarship to St. Frances Academy for young men in high school from Baltimore City Public Schools. Beginning in Fall 2012 with seven students, the program will serve 16 young men in the 2015-16 school year. Stories range from an a student at Dunbar High School whose only guardian died to a student whose family’s home had burned to the ground with no insurance to a student released from the Hickey School under probation. Many students are repeating a high school grade due to multiple course failures, and enter the program with grades averaging below 70 percent
To date, two of the Father Joubert students have graduated: a June 2015 graduate has earned a full scholarship to Monmouth University to play football. An additional five young men (3 of whom were in the first cohort to begin at Saint Frances as ninth graders) will graduate in June, 2016, with plans for college and career.
Given the high needs of the student residents, The Father Joubert House has been successful in retaining students: 65 percent of the students who enrolled have been retained (including several students who leave to later return). Not only is their attendance near-perfect, but also their GPAs have increased each year they have lived at the house. While first-year students (typically ninth graders) earn a first year GPA of 1.8, those in the second and third years are earning an average GPA of 2.5. All of the residents have been promoted to the next grade, and 4 of the 13 students are on the honor roll. Within the school, they are proud to be known as the “Father Joubert boys,” and are often the leaders in school and extracurricular activities.