By Brittany Pieper – email
SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) –Last year 2,175 students in Caddo Parish were identified as homeless.
Like most kids, Shamareaee Sims goes to school every morning. After school she does homework and plays with her younger brothers. However, unlike most of her classmates, Sims family recently became homeless.
"I wasn't stable. You know. I didn't know where we was gonna lay out head. I didn't know where we was gonna eat," said her mother, Ella Sims.
The Sims family stayed in a shelter, then with friends, but it's been difficult to keep up in school.
"I can't concentrate like I do in a house," said Shamareaee.
In Caddo Parish, about 5% of the students have been identified to some degree as homeless. In a class of 20, on average, one of those students doesn't have a stable or permanent home.
"The definition includes of course our shelters, fire victims, persons staying in hotels, motels, campgrounds. Persons that are actually staying in abandoned buildings here," said Caddo Schools Homeless Coordinator, Pittre Walker.
Some of the most extreme situations include families living on the streets or in cars.
"Where do you park your car the most? We find out where they're parking their car, and that's where we place them in school," said Walker.
Caddo's Homeless Education Program provides things like uniforms, transportation, and free meals through the McKinney-Vento act.
"These kids are just like everybody else. They're just like my child. They want the world. They want to be able to go to the homecoming dance," said Walker
Kendrick Little hopes to continue his education beyond Byrd High School.
"I want to go to college, I just don't know what college I want to go to," he said.
One of his few possessions is a shoe box full of pictures of his parents who both died before he turned 12. Since then he's found temporary homes with different family members. At the start of this school year his bus driver, who has driven Little since the 3rd grade, decided to try and help.
"He was telling me things that he wanted to do, and I know that he didn't have the funds to do it," said bus driver Gordon Nunsant.
Nunsant contacted the staff at the Homeless Education Program. They've helped keep a roof over Little's head, offered tutoring, and helped him get something most people take for granted, an official state ID. Little didn't have a birth certificate, social security card, or any type of identification. His new ID card allowed Little to take the ACT, and will help him apply for scholarship money to attend college.
"It shows me that there's people out here in this world that's able to help you when you need help," said Little.
The homeless students faces lots of difficulties. This year the state cut their budget by $30,000. While there are shelters to help house young girls, there are no options in Shreveport for boys.
The district says the help the program can provide is vital in keeping homeless students in school. Last year 80% of the homeless students on track to graduate did. The year before 95% received their diploma. Little hopes to walk across the stage next school year.
"Don't give up. Even though life is a struggle, it's gonna be hard, but just don't give up on it," said Little.
Those who have become his support system say they're confident he will.
"He's taken the responsibility that I'm gonna make it in life regardless of what has transpired in my life. He doesn't have that quit in him," said Nunsant.
Just a few of the 1000s of stories of homelessness that walk through the halls of local schools every day.
For more information on Caddo Parish's Homeless Education program click here.
Facts about Homeless Children and Youth in Louisiana:
-21,000+ children and youth have been Identified in Louisiana
-27% had repeated a grade
-27% missed more than 2 weeks of school; 11% missed more than 4 weeks
-16% were not enrolled in a school on a regular basis statewide
-12% experienced hunger
-12% experienced a decline in healthcare during homelessness
-32% suffered from emotional problems caused by homelessness
*Source: Louisiana Department of Education
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