SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) -
The amount of homeless children across the Ark-La-Tex is staggering. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently released numbers from 2013 and pinpointed reasons why each state lacked more than others as far as fixing the problem.
Kevon Mitchell works with homeless children and runaway teens every day. He coaches a basketball team through the SPAR Midnight Basketball league. His team has not won a single game but it isn’t about winning for Mitchell.
"Actually I'm glad we're struggling because it builds character for these kids."
That character will keep his players out of trouble and off the streets which is a familiar place for three of them. They were at one point homeless teens.
Alize and his brother, Nijull, were part of a family of seven who moved to Shreveport from California a year ago looking for a fresh start.
"We had no were to stay when we came out here,” said Alize. “We were just on our own."
The non-profit organization Mitchell works for called Shreveport Cares helped place these brothers into temporary housing. The house they now live in is not filled with furniture or decorations but it his filled with relief for a family who has a place to lay their head at night.
Mitchell spends most of his days driving around the kids he got off the streets. He takes them to get a haircut, the mall, or to pass out flyers about the organization.
Romullus spent two years on the streets and has to carry his clothes in a black garbage bag from place to place. He said homelessness is a scary place.
"I scraped up change to ride the city bus when I first moved downtown to go to school,” said Romullus. “I was lucky I passed the 6th grade."
Nijull will return to middle school in two weeks but said he struggles to stay in school. Alize dropped out of Byrd High School and is now enrolled in Job Corps so he can work while getting his diploma.
More than 200,000 kids across the state are homeless and one-in-four will graduate from high school. Louisiana is ranked worst among all 50 states for its high rate of child homelessness. Texas and Arkansas are also considered two of the worst states in the country for their high rate of homelessness among kids.
"There has to be a social infrastructure in order to give people a foundation to get out of this situation,” said Simone Hennessee, director of the Providence House in Shreveport. “That is affordable rental property, affordable and available child care, public transportation and of greatest importance, education."
Hennessee said she sees homeless children come in and out of the shelter on a daily basis. When were there filming our story there were more than 150 children at the Child Development Center. It is the only center of its kind in the state.
"We have served close to 8,800 children in this program along. Last year we serve 578 children. This year I'm sure we'll serve close to that many children over a years’ time. That gives you some sense of the need."
According to Hennessee, Caddo Parish has one of the highest rates of homelessness with 33 percent of the children living in poverty.
Mitchell wants to change that statistic and he intends to do that one kid at a time.
"Hopefully I can make the world a little bit better place just by helping these kids."