News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

To Help Homeless Students, You Must Find Them First

Lara Solt
KERA News Special Contributor
There are about 110,000 homeless students in schools statewide, including thousands right here in North Texas.

There are about 110,000 homeless students in schools statewide, including thousands right here in North Texas. As part of KERA’s American Graduate series Homeless in High School, Monday on Think, Krys Boyd talked to a panel of experts about the issue:

Technically, you can have a roof over your head and still be considered homeless.

“The majority of our children … are living doubled up, which means they’re with friends or family due to economic hardship," says PJ Holland-Rasor, the director of student support for McKinney ISD. “We also have children who are in hotels – the daily-rate hotels – with their families. We do have those who are considered unaccompanied youth – that means they’re not living with their parents when they’re living with their friends and family. We have those who are in shelters. … And then unsheltered, which means they’re in their car, campground, on a street.”

Many of those students living on the street also feel alienated and isolated. Ashley Lind is the CEO of Dallas’ Promise House, which supports at-risk youth.

“Maybe they have some sexual orientation questions that they’re struggling with, or maybe they’ve become pregnant and they’re afraid to share that, or maybe they have shared that with their parent and the parent has told them to leave," she said. "Substance abuse and those types of things are also things that they struggle with and that ultimately may lead to residing on the street or sofa surfing.”

Homelessness is often a fluid situation, which can make it tough to identify these students. Also making it tough: the students don’t want their classmates to know.

“It is very difficult to identify them, because they don’t want to be identified many times," says June Davis, director of special programs for Fort Worth ISD. "They try to hold it together and come to school, and many times they’re tardy when they come, or they don’t have adequate clothing or school supplies or the things they need to be successful in school, and maybe a friend will share with the counselor or teacher the situation that’s going on with that student.”

All of our guests say consistency is key. Whether it’s providing tutors to make sure students stay up on their studies, clothes or even transportation. It’s all about providing stability when life outside the classroom is in flux.

Tune in Tuesday morning 8:20 during Morning Edition to meet Desmond Davis, a senior at North Dallas High School. He’s the school band’s drum major, runs track and wrestles for the school, and he’s officially homeless. Think re-airs tonight at 10, or listen to the podcast.