Growing Up Homeless: The Surprising Statistics in Lubbock

<p>Nearly 2 million American children are considered homeless, according to a National Study.&nbsp; That's 33% more than in 2007, before the recession hit the hardest.&nbsp; Today, more families are forced out of a place to live, every day.</p>
Nearly 2 million American children are considered homeless, according to a National Study.  That's 33% more than in 2007, before the recession hit the hardest.  Today, more families are forced out of a place to live, every day.

That includes here in Lubbock. And it's a statistic we tend to overlook.  What you may not see, is that many on the street didn't necessarily choose to live this way.  We headed out, and found an entire community of kids growing up homeless.

Our first meeting was with the Statam family.  Sitting with them at 6:30 on a school day, the girls seemed just like every other kid their age.  Destiny and Faith get ready in a room with Justin Bieber on the wall, they eat a quick breakfast through tired eyes, and they grab Hannah Montana book bags as they wait on the bus.

But what many of their friends don't know at school is that they are homeless. And part of a growing population in Lubbock.

"They never ask me anything so I don't tell them anything," said Destiny Statam, 10 years old.

It's her and her sister Faith's little secret that they live with their mom at the Salvation Army.

"It's hard because I've never had to depend on something like this, like a shelter home," says mom Deanna.

These past few years have been tough on a single mom of two.  Deanna served in the Navy for four year.  But after a divorce, and what she calls a series of bad choices and finances, the girls ended up at the shelter. Deanna works there overnight.

"Minimum wage is no longer good enough to make the rent," said Dana King with LISD.  She and Bonnie Quintana are social workers for the district. They say there are 350 kids enrolled, classified as homeless there.

Nearby, Frenship ISD works with 161 kids. Lubbock Cooper enrolls 138.

That's more than 600 kids without a home in our community - and that's just the families they know of.

"We have some children that don't have running water, and don't have electricity," Dana said.  "They're cold, and they're dirty.  I don't know that we communicate that, as well.

"You're going to think that in Lubbock, kids don't live in the park," Bonnie said.  "And they do.  They live in cars, and they get ready in McDonald's."

That's exactly what Jennifer Porter's experienced.  She says her friends never even knew she was homeless, but she has been for two years.

"I got kicked out where I was living with my dad. So I had nowhere to go," she says.

At 20 years old, still in high school, and now pregnant - things haven't been easy.

"Sometimes it makes me mad," she says.  "Because it's like, I'm a person too.  But they look at you differently."

Jennifer and her boyfriend took me to where she slept every night for six months, under the Marsha Sharp Freeway.  They had just a mattress and a few blankets to their name.

"Being on the streets I've learned, mainly, to take care of you," Jennifer told us, as she surveyed what was left in the area.  "There are people out here that use you for stuff, and you just have to learn to take care of yourself."

Often, she shared the small space with other kids, as young as 15 years old.

Getting to school meant walking miles to the bus stop.  With no home support, and a loss of motivation, it didn't take long before Jennifer dropped out.        

"It's easy to give up," said Bonnie with LISD.  "When there are so many obstacles in your path."

Of course, schools can only do so much.  1% of LISD's budget is set aside for homeless services.  That helps provide school supplies, bus transportation, some clothing, and something to eat.

"They get two meals," Dana told us.  "But we don't know about the last meal of the day."

When talking to Destiny and Faith about their school life, they told us that they don't feel different from their classmates.

Keeping a positive attitude, their mom Deanna says the Lord's always taken care of them. 

One day, they'll move on. There's a whole life ahead of them - one they hope will only get better from here.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 75% of families nationwide enter and exit shelters quickly.  The key is education.

Jennifer says she's heading back to high school, by enrolling in night classes.  Deanna says she plans to someday finish her college degree.

Without goals like these, the likelihood of homeless youth staying that way increases greatly due to poor mental and physical health, or substance abuse.

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