Lebanon County aiding influx of hurricane-displaced families

LEBANON, P.A. --- Since September 25, Lebanon County School District Superintendent Arthur Abroms said 150 students of all ages from the Caribbean islands, Florida, and Texas have enrolled in K-4 up to high school.

He said they project that number to reach 200 students by the start of winter break, December 22.

Students displaced by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria arrived in Lebanon County with little to no records, said Abroms, due to the devastation.

However, the students are considered homeless so they automatically enroll in school due to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

Abroms said without proper information, the school administrators must make their own assessment of where students are placed.

“What we’ll look at, obviously, first is the age and listen to the parent who will tell us this is the grade level they may have been in in Puerto Rico, as well as these are the services this student received,” said Abroms.

He also said coordinators constantly check in with the students to make sure they’re comfortable with the position the school puts them in.

“We have our title one teachers, who can assess students in reading. We have our guidance counselors at the high school who can help place students, for example, in the right classes. We have special ed teachers who can also assess students. And we have ELL teachers who can assess students in their home language,” said Abroms.

Abroms said some students, considered “unaccompanied youth," come to Lebanon County without their families and live with a relative they may have never met before.

“That’s why we try to stabilize things as soon as possible here because that’s the one environment they can count on each day,” said Abroms.

With an "overwhelmed" staff, a coalition of the City of Lebanon and the United Way of Lebanon County look to help.

Kenny Montijo, CEO of United Way of Lebanon County, said some of their partners, such as the Salvation Army. are seeing more than 80 cases of families arriving with nothing.

“Their homes were devastated, they lost their clothing, many of them lost their jobs and that natural safety net,” said Montijo.

Among the challenges impacting the transition for families, Montijo said a lack of transportation to services such as healthcare and a language barriers come to play.

He said they’re trying to get these families back on their feet and help them become permanent residents.

“If we can help them find employment, find stable housing immediately in our community, that will just help strengthen the network we have here,” said Montijo.

He also said the United Way of Lebanon County is looking for a part-time, interim community advocate.

The purpose would be to help guide these new families in the right direction over the course of the next six to nine months.

The Lebanon County School District is accepting donations for those looking to help these displaced families.

They accept any items at their offices at 1000 S. 8th Street, Lebanon, PA 17042. Any checks written must include the memo "Hurricane" so it can be submitted to a separate, specific account.

The United Way is hosting their "Live Warm" campaign and say their need for winter clothes, especially children's coats, has never been higher due to the influx.

There are boxes placed at banks and business in Lebanon County marked "Live Warm." Call their offices at for donation information or if in need of necessities at 717-273-8144.