HOUSTON -- Imagine trying to manage high school without a family and without a home. It's a growing problem in southwest Houston, far from traditional homeless shelters and bus routes.
There’s nothing remarkable about getting to school every day, unless you are homeless. In mid January, Angelica Roberts, a 17-year-old high school junior, moved into a transitional living facility in Alief.
“I don’t know my dad and me and my mom don’t really talk," said Roberts.
She was 11 when her mom and new husband in Dallas had her move out.
“Pushed me kinda to the side. I felt like she didn’t really want me there," said Roberts.
Angie had been living with her grandmother in Cuero, working 30 hours a week at a McDonalds to help pay for food.
A friend told her about the church shelter for Alief ISD homeless students. Angie became its first official resident. Alief I.S.D. Board Trustee Tiffany Thomas says a tough economy and a struggling immigrant population are pushing more kids out the door faster.
“Culturally when some of these kids hit 15 or 16 they’re considered an adult," said Thomas.
Two years ago, the district started counting. Alief ISD now has 1,600 homeless students, defined as those who don’t have “adequate, stable night time residence.” Most are constantly moving between relatives and friends.
“We have 79 that are in hotels, motels, 50 that are in shelters, around 22 that we do not know and there are roughly 10 that are sleeping in their car, under a tree, they are transient,” said Thomas.
Those students still go to school. Free breakfast and lunch on campus, along with gym showers are big draws, but not real solutions. Alief is far from established shelters in downtown Houston, so the district is asking nearby non profits, such as The Prodigal Son for help. Pastor Chris Rangel runs the home.
Rangel added the small shelter for eight is designed for students enrolled in school and on track to graduate.
“So they won’t drop out,” said Rangel.
Angie said she is an A and B student now that she doesn’t have to work. The district is working on other ways to cross the divide. Directly across the street from Alief Elsik High is one the local apartment complexes that donates or leases units at a discount to homeless students.
“I'm not ashamed of being here," said Roberts. "I’m not scared to tell anybody about it.”
She plans on being there until she graduates next year.
For more information for services or donations:
Alief ISD Homeless Liason Director: Delores.Jones@AISD.net
Alief Homeless Outreach project: www.facebook.com/aliefhomelessoutreachproject
HISD Homeless Information: http://www.houstonisd.org/Page/77228