One in 20 JCPS students is homeless; district believes many more could use help, too

Help is available for local students in need.
Published: Nov. 15, 2019 at 6:34 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - It’s hard for some of us to imagine not having a place to call home, especially for children. But, chances are if you have school-aged children, at least one of their classmates is homeless.

Nearly 5,200 JCPS students -- that’s 1 out of 20 -- were identified as homeless last school year. The district said it believes the number of students who qualify for help is much higher.

“My dad died and he helped my mom with our income situation, so when he died, she didn’t have no one to help her,” said Tameira Edwards, a junior at Western High School.

Edwards was just 8 years old when she and her mother moved into a homeless shelter.

“I wanted to have a comfortable bed; that would have been nice,” Edwards said. “To have a secure place where you don’t have to worry about somebody breaking your windows or have, like, you know, that where you’re living at, you’re there for a long time.”

Senior Karliya Sweet grew up living with an aunt; her parents were incarcerated.

“I thought there was only three ways to be homeless ... a parent dies, a parent goes to jail or you run away from home,” Sweet said. “I never knew there was more than those three.”

Situations like Sweet’s qualify, too.

“I get the question of, ‘What is homeless?’ a lot and I always try to make people understand that it’s probably very far away from what people have in their mind,” Access and Opportunity Specialist Giselle Danger said.

The law defines someone as homeless when they lack fixed, regular and adequate housing.

“Once we identify students as homeless, we provide support,” Danger said. “We have in every single school in JCPS a homeless liaison.”

Among other things, homeless liaisons arrange transportation so students can stay at the same school even if they move around.

According to the district, homeless families typically move two to three times during a school year, and that can affect academic achievement in a big way.

Homeless students are eight times more likely to repeat a grade.

“I had a lot of referrals and suspensions, but over time, I’ve gotten better, I have come a long way,” Sweet said.

Edwards said her grades went up once she and her mom found a permanent place. She and Sweet are part of a team who took part in Kentucky Youth Assembly this year, pushing for more resources for homeless youth.

“Never in a million years did I think I would see myself with this, being able to say I’m actually proud of myself and I’m doing something with my life,” Sweet said.

November is National Homeless Youth Education month. For more information on the resources available, click here.

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