SPECIAL REPORT: Homeless With Homework

SPECIAL REPORT: Homeless With Homework

By Devin Sanchez
NewsWest 9

The Permian Basin is more often recognized for it's booming economy and rising population, but another number is on the rise; homeless students.

"I think it's the lack of affordable housing," Caroline McLelland, Social Worker for Ector County ISD, said.

Dolores Cano, with Midland ISD, shared McLelland's sentiment.

"If the oil boom continues, we'll have even more," she said.

Just take a walk down any school in both Midland Independent and Ector County Independent school districts and you are bound to pass by at least one homeless student.

"Every week, in fact, I just got off the phone with a family that just moved here from out of town. Now they're staying at a motel because they could find a job, but not any stable housing," McLelland said.

At the beginning of February, MISD identified 465 students as homeless, and the majority of those aren't secondary students.

"We do have a larger number of elementary kiddos," Cano explained.

In general, Midland's number of homeless children increased 31% since 2012, according to the homeless coalition.

But MISD's number isn't as shocking as ECISD's. As of February 21, 2013, the district identified 865 students as homeless, with the largest percent of those students in either kindergarten and first grade. The largest majority of homeless, 81%, were actually doubled up or living in someone else's house.

"Sometimes you'll have 9, 10, 11 people, under one roof," McLelland said.

MISD has similar situations.

"A family was in a hotel and now they're just living with whomever can take them in because of funds," Cano said.

More than 90% of students who are homeless move around at least three times in the school year and a big chunk of them are living in hotels and motels in Midland and Odessa.

"Lots of people are identified as homeless because they're living in a hotel," Cano said.

No matter how many times a student moves, or where they are living, each district feels it's important to keep the student's school life stable, even if their home life isn't.

"They can move from place to place. They can move five or six times but we'll always keep the school stable. We provide busing for those students as long as wherever they are living is further than two miles from the school," McLelland told NewsWest 9.

There are programs set up for these students that provide them with whatever they may need, including food.

"When the kid gets to school, we make sure they get breakfast. If they need clean clothes, we'll provide them. If they need school supplies, we're there for them," Cano said.

"We also assist with food baskets. We partner with our local community agencies and if we tell them there's a need, they'll allow us to come pick up a food basket for a family," McLelland added.

The communities also step in to help whenever they can.

"Midland is great with support, it's just connecting the families with those agencies," Cano said.

Since most students won't confide in their peers about their living situation, school officials say its important to teach kids to be compassionate.