HOUSTON—Parents who thought their home was safe are battling with the state over the custody of their kids, and they believe they’re being punished because they’re poor.
"You shouldn’t take our kids because we’ve fallen on hard times," said Prince Leonard, a married father of six whose family resides in a northeast Houston storage shed.
The Leonards moved in three years ago after the father, an unemployed welder, was hired as a maintenance worker.
The family had already lost an apartment and believed the homeless shelter wasn’t safe enough.
"This is much more secure," said Charlomane Leonard. "Our children can play outside here."
Recently, a passerby spotted the children outside and reported them to Child Protective Services.
A caseworker investigated, and the state took custody of the kids.
According to CPS, the children were removed because the storage shed was a dangerous living environment.
The shed, which lacks running water, is about 12 feet wide and 25 feet long.
It has an air conditioner, a refrigerator and two personal computers. The Leonards said their kids were well cared for and happy there.
Now they’re fighting to have their children returned.
"We just want them back where they belong," said Mr. Leonard.