Homeless student population on the rise

7:35 PM, Jan 26, 2010   |    comments
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"It's hard in this life of mine," he said. "It's not easy being an 11-year-old like me."

Michael and his father, Mike, are staying in a different church every week. During the day, Slaughter looks for permanent jobs using phones and computers at a day site for the Interfaith Hospitality Network. He pieces together temporary jobs for income, but it is still not enough for them to get their own place.

"I'm hoping that he doesn't look at me as someone who might have let him down," Slaughter said. "I'm hoping that he sees how hard dad is trying."

Slaughter worked full time in 2007. After a series of family issues, he moved from Arkansas to Colorado and has been looking for a job ever since.

"I really pray for everybody that's in this situation," Slaughter said. "It's a 24-hour job being homeless."

Sheree Conyers is the homeless liaison for Jefferson County Schools. She says during the entire school year last year, the district served 2088 homeless students.

"It's January and already have over 2000 students verified as experiencing homelessness in the Jeffco Public Schools," Conyers said. "We're going to be way over where we were last year."

She blames the economy for putting a lot of people out of work, a lot of people who never expected to be homeless.

"The big thing that is really changed this year is the newly homeless," Conyers said. "The thing we need to think about first of all is we need to take that worry off the kids' shoulders."

Conyers created an information packet to help families find the resources they need for job and housing assistance.

"When you first realize it, it's overwhelming," Slaughter said.

Conyers says the idea that the homeless are people standing on the side of the road asking for money is a misconception.

"Eighty percent of all homeless in Jeffco are children and families," Conyers said. "We are the hidden face of homelessness."

Slaughter says he cannot give up for the sake of his son.

"If I stood around and held up a cardboard sign and said, 'Hey, me and my son are homeless, feed us,' I wouldn't get nowhere. It wouldn't show him anything," Slaughter said.

Instead, Michael says he has learned the lesson of perseverance. He still goes to school every day and gets good grades.

"It says a lot about him. It really does," Slaughter said. "I'm so blessed to have a kid like him."

Slaughter had full custody of Michael since his son was 18 months old.

"I really want my dad to have a job," Michael said. "I think that he's a wonderful dad."

Over the past two years, Jeffco Schools has reported twice the number of homeless students than Denver. If you want to find out more about the Jeffco Schools Homeless programs you can visit http://sc.jeffco.k12.co.us/education/projects/projects.php?sectionid=19469.

If you want to find out more about the Interfaith Hospitality Network, you can visit http://www.interfaithhospitality.org/.

Michael says it is sad that there's more and more students like him popping up every day.
He just wants to have the same concerns that most other fifth graders have, instead of the worries of being homeless.

"I'm tired of dealing with all the stress," Michael said. "God, please help us with this situation."

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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