By Sylvia Gonzalez
ODESSA - It's hard to believe but more than 500 students in West Texas are homeless. Even worse, that's nearly double the number from last year and with the high cost of housing that number is expected to grow.
"We have identified about 500 hundred kids under our McKinney Vento Program, and that is about a 53 percent increase over the number of students that we have identified last year at this time. We are seeing more families that are coming to our district that we consider in a homeless situation," Caroline McLelland, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for E.C.I.S.D., said.
McLelland has been working for the district for the last four years. She says this is the largest number of homeless students she has ever seen. So what exactly defines a homeless student?
"They are living with family members or friends, we have people that are living in cars, we have people living in 5th wheels, just daily rate motels, shelters, Salvation Army, Family Promise, domestic violence shelters, just a variety of different locations," McLelland said.
McLelland fears with the good economy the Basin is having and the housing shortage, more students will not have a permanent home.
"We have a lot of families moving from different states, different countries, because of jobs but then when they get here they can't find adequate stable housing. We also have families that have been here working and landlords are basically raising the rent after their lease is up," McLelland said.
She says being homeless can be unsettling for anyone but it can take a harder toll on a student, especially when their main focus should be on their homework and not worrying about where they're going to sleep that night.
"Very unsettling, because we have kids where they don't know where they are going to spend the night or where they are going to get their next meal or they might not have an adequate place to do homework. We expect them to come to school ready to learn. A lot of these kids are in situations that make that very difficult," McLelland said.