by Dennis Townsend, Contributing Writer
You see them everyday walking the city streets, or maybe you don’t see them, after all, they are part of the population that’s increasingly becoming invisible. They are not labeled, and if you didn’t know what to look for, they would look like everyday teenagers except for one thing, they are homeless high school honor students. They live in cardboard boxes under bridges, or take refuge in boarded up abandoned houses and usually shy away from shelters. They do their homework at public libraries, eat at soup kitchens, and do their school clothes shopping at donation bins. Some come from homes where the parents were drug addicts, or life long criminals, but for the most part, they are the fallout from an economy that tanked thanks to the Wall Street bright boys and the likes of Countywide's “mortgage-gate”. Often when a family loses their income due to lack of work or some other unfortunate circumstance the bad luck doesn’t “trickle” down, it cascades. If you have a son or daughter that is of high school age, they are more apt to want to graduate with their friends and do not want to be embarrassed and uprooted to a foster home or a shelter, so they break out on their own hoping to finish their education covertly. Some families stay together by moving in with relatives, but for some, there is no such lifeboat.
For those who are without family, those whose parents are in prison, those who have been abandoned because there just wasn’t enough family resources have learned the time tested occupation of pan-handling to survive. And despite what you might think, only a small percentage turn to crime to survive. Child labor laws are a barrier to legal employment even in a hamburger joint, and many don’t have a real address and are afraid of winding up in some horrible social institution. You hear a lot about high school students dropping out of school, but the homeless honor student has only one thing on his or her mind, and that is to better their circumstances and that requires a good education. It is estimated that there are more than 1 million homeless high school students across the United States. The top four states with the most population of homeless students are California, New York, Texas, and Florida. Some schools are able to identify those students that are homeless, and offer some assistance, and most of the time that is in the form of a warm place to stay at night, or a good meal, truly valuable gifts.. And as long as they see an honest effort by the student, schools are more willing to be accommodating and overlook certain criteria.
There are ten other states that have seen an increase in homeless students and it’s clear this is the sign of the times. And while some of these students are getting help, there are thousands getting no help at all. There is talk of addressing the situation in Washington, but at the speed they move, well, need I say more. If you happen upon one of these courageous students offer what help you can because they bring a whole new definition to the term “Rhodes” (Road) scholar.
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