A Glimpse Into The Growing Number of Homeless Students In Spokan - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

A Glimpse Into The Growing Number of Homeless Students In Spokane

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SPOKANE, Wash. -

Imagine for a moment being a child or teenager and not knowing where you’ll sleep tonight or where your next meal is coming from. It’s hard to wrap your mind around and yet there are 852 students just in the Spokane Public School district who do it every day.

“We went to a shelter because we had nowhere else to go,” one 17-year-old student who is homeless told KHQ’s Kelsey Watts.

This senior is one of the roughly 160 students of the 1,600 enrolled at Rogers High School who is considered homeless – the school with the highest poverty rate in the district, in the neighborhood with the highest poverty rate in the state.

“I know what I went through so I can only imagine how many other kids go through it,” she added.

The teen told KHQ she never had a stable home growing up because her family struggled with issues of substance abuse and violence. She’s lived in a homeless shelter and in a tent – and even her closest friends would never know it.

“I don’t want people to look at me different and go, ‘awww,’ because that’s not who I am,” she said.

“We have several kids here who are couch surfing, just looking for some place to sleep each night,” Rogers High School Intervention Specialist Barb Silvey explained. “We have some kids where this is the only place they can shower because they don’t have water.”

Silvey has heart many heartbreaking stories over the course of her 32-year teaching career, and has personally taken in more than two-dozen foster kids. In her classroom, you’ll find coats, clothes, shoes and toiletries any student who needs them can take – and the need is growing every year.

“A lot of people think kids would choose this,” Silvey said. “How in the world would you choose to sleep in your car when it's 3 degrees outside?"

Silvey works closely with Spokane Public School’s HEART program (Homeless Education and Resource Team) which helps identity students who are considered homeless, provide them transportation and supplies, and connect them with resources to succeed.

A local food bank also comes in on a monthly basis to deliver much-needed food to the students in need. Additionally, any member of the WEA (Washington Education Association) can get approved through the union’s children’s fund for $75 to buy a student whatever they may need most (i.e. clothing, socks, toothbrushes…). Teachers and employees can help up to five students per year through the donation-based account.

“Barb is a lifesaver,” the teenage girl added. “I never would have gotten this far without her.”

Now, the teen is preparing to graduate with extra credits and plans to earn her Associate’s degree at a local community college before transferring to a state school to become a family support specialist and help others.

The total enrollment of Spokane Public Schools is 29,256 and the latest data from the annual count of people who are experiencing homelessness in our community shows that 1 in every 3 is a child.

To learn more, visit: http://www.spokaneschools.org/site/Default.aspx?PageID=1608

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