A 3 On Your Side Investigation on homeless children in the Jackson metro area. For almost two thousand students in Jackson, their homes may be on the streets, in shelters, in a car, or a temporary apartment. They are homeless with homework.
We met this 19-year-old senior in high school at 6:45 in the morning as he packed his books and prepared for a day of classes.
"I just gotta make sure I have everything", said John.
We have agreed to protect his identity and for this story we'll call him John. John tells us he spent months on the streets of Jackson after being abandoned by his parents.
"Not, literally not knowing what you're gonna do, where you're gonna eat, where you're gonna sleep, it was painful", John said.
John told us there were many nights he had to fight off adults to have a place to sleep.
"Two people with no place to go trying to stay warm, fighting over one spot", John said.
Going to school while living on the streets became impossible.
"Unless I spent two hours in the morning and dug a hole and buried everything then I know by the time I came back my stuff would be gone", said John.
John now stays at the PALS program which is run by Southern Christian Services For Children and Youth. He says it has been a God send.
"Thank you God cause, its at least now I know that I have a chance to actually get back on my feet and then get out", John said.
Sue Cherney is the Executive Director of Southern Christian Services. She says there are more children on the streets than the public realizes. One of the most common reasons, a mom's boyfriend moves in, the kids get kicked out.
"Or there are drug and alcohol issues, and domestic violence. But yes in many cases, sad to say mama prefers the boyfriend to the kids", said Cherney.
Brenda Powell is the Homeless Liaison for Jackson Public Schools. She and Cherney say under the McKinney-Vento Act no school district can refuse to admit a homeless child.
"Our figure for this year, 1,910 students, last year, that's an increase from last year. Last year we had like 1600, classified as homeless students", Powell said.
Powell says the stories are heart wrenching. This year she worked with a mother who lived in a car with her four children.
John is determined to get his high school diploma. He hopes to graduate in May. He keeps this prayer on his wall reciting the words daily.
"Our loving God is always near, forever by our side, please know that you are loved", said John.
Right now, there are 12 teens and young adults living at the PALS program. In addition to staying in school, the older kids are required to find jobs, have a savings account, and they are taught to budget.
Copyright 2012 Mississippi News Now. All rights reserved.
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