August 23, 2010
More children are becoming homeless in this new economy, and the problem is especially severe in Kansas. Kansas ranks top five in the nation to see a growing number of homeless students, as the number has nearly doubled over the past three years.
"It got to where I was fighting to pay my rent or pay the utilities," said mother-of-four, Julie Powell.
So Powell's husband picked up a second job as they turned to the Salvation Army for help.
"I'd probably be in my van right now [if it weren't for the Salvation Army]. Because we can't afford to stay in a hotel day to day, it costs too much," said Powell.
But through different predicaments, one thing stayed the same, the children's school. And the Powells aren't alone. Just down the street another family is taking shelter at St. Anthony. And despite their temporary situation, the children's education also remains constant.
"To me, education is very very very important. All three of my kids make A's and B's," said Paschia Jones, who is staying at St. Anthony with her three children.
The number of families like the Powells and Jones is growing. Kansas has seen the fourth largest increase of homeless students in the nation, at 88% in just three years.
"We have people that are just losing their homes and people that are losing their jobs," said Wichita Public School Education Coordinator Sue Steele.
Plus, school coordinators say more families are learning students can enroll without an address. Wichita Public Schools ended this past school year with around 1,600 homeless students. This year, they expect to surpass 2,000. So the district helps with supplies, enrollment, and transportation to keep those students at the same school.
"If you have a job you learn where the bathroom is, who the people are that you work with, before you really learn the job, because you want to feel comfortable. Our kids are the same way," said Steele.
"At the school they go to, it's like a big family," said Powell.