Sunday, November 6, 2011

Homeless in High School

There's not really a whole lot I can add to this sad story out of LaCrosse, Wisconsin:
When you think of the homelessness, you probably think of it happening in big cities like Milwaukee, Madison, and Racine. Its a growing problem in every Wisconsin city, big and small, especially among families with children.

The Department of Education requires each Wisconsin school district to assign one staff member to be a homeless liaison. WXOW called our local liaisons and here's what we found: There are 22 homeless students enrolled in the Sparta School District, 30 in the Viroqua School District, and 70 in the La Crosse School District. But the district with the largest homeless population by far is Tomah, where as of last week, 93 homeless students were enrolled.

The homeless students in Tomah don't stick out from among their peers with homes. Many are suffering in silence. One of them is Jake. The high school senior, like so many of his classmates, has no where to go.

16 hours and 49 minutes: the amount of time that passes between the end of one school day and the beginning of the next. Time many of the kids in this Tomah classroom have no where to go. Jake is one of them.

"Not too many people know about it," Jake said.

Social status is everything in high school so Jake asked us not to show his face or use his real name. The high school senior is one close to 100 homeless students enrolled in the district. There are more homeless students than there are kids on the football team.

"We have never seen numbers like this." Director of Pupil Services Paul Skofronick blames the economy. "It's hurting all of us without a doubt, but the kids are being affected because they don't know why."

The homeless in Tomah are hidden. They don't live on the street; instead they sleep in their cars, at camp ground, or on a friend's couch.
I remember high school being one of the worst times in my life because my parents were divorcing and I was a socially awkward teenager. But all of that pales in comparison to this. Note that this is not a story from a big city ghetto neighborhood but from small town America.

It sucks to consider this, but given where the economy is headed most of these kids likely have no future.

1 comment:

  1. In my East SF Bay community we have a large public/private organization dedicated to assisting homeless children in the education system.