Inside school walls, students may appear to have their needs met and a place to go home to after the last bell. But in reality, there is a hidden population of homeless children.
“We have several students that are classified as homeless. We have several that have come here because they have nowhere to go. We have them in the hotels here. We have them staying with other people because they have been evicted, so it’s quite a problem here,” said Sheila McLeod, a student services and attendance officer with Ozark City Schools.
She said they have identified about 43 homeless children of all ages who attend schools in Ozark and estimate there are several more who are not identified.
“In so many or our homes, it’s more than one child involved, so when we’re talking about our homeless children, we’re talking about those homeless families too. We don’t leave those families out,” said McLeod.
This includes families that move into town with parents who are out of work with nowhere to live. Other administrators have also cited a high mortality rate in the area, where children are losing one or more parents. Several are also living in hotels where flyers are posted by the school system, letting them know there is help available through an at-risk fund.
“That at-risk fund has been used to help some of our homeless. Also, in our school system, once a student has been classified as homeless, we must set aside some money to provide for that student,” she said, adding teachers are also trained to identify students who may be homeless.
They provide free meals, clothing, eye glasses and other items, all with help from churches and anyone in the community willing to lend a helping hand.
Money donations will really go a long way to help these students and families get on their feet. To help with this cause, you can contact Ozark City Schools at 334-774-5197.