Roanoke City homeless student numbers drop at the end of school year

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - The number of homeless children in Roanoke City Schools dropped this year. There were 588 at the end of the school year compared to 604 at the end of the 2015 school year.

Roanoke City Schools Superintendent Dr. Rita Bishop says partnering with the city for a Help the Homeless program made a big difference. In the 2015-2016 school year they were able to keep twenty families in their homes meaning about 35 students had a place to live. She credits the pilot program that helped with paying rent or getting parents drivers licenses that made life easier for these families.

Community businesses and churches donated $27,000 last year that paid for things like supplies, coats in the winter and $2,500 to kick of the Help the Homeless pilot program. The community also donated more than $10,000 in supplies. Justin McLeod, Coordinator for Community Relations led a big social media push to raise awareness about student homelessness.

"I think it's a problem that we have tried to deal with but I think the RYSE initiative has some long-term solutions," said Dr. Bishop. "The more we stabilize families and create a structure and unit that children can depend on the better they're going to do in school."

Now the United Way's goal is to get all students in a home by the start of the school year with the RYSE initiative.

"I tell my friends I have students who have lived more in 10 years then they've lived in their whole lives in terms of experiencing setbacks and that kind of thing. It's just the lack of stability that is so difficult for our children and their families. It defies imagination," said Dr. Bishop. "It's really depressing to see a 10-year-old just frowning. It is a need that all children have for some kind of stability that this whole homeless thing makes it so difficult. I'm not just talking about difficult in terms of learning in school I'm talking about just difficult."

Dr. Bishop says many times it doesn't take a lot of money to keep a person in their house. Sometimes it's assistance for a month or two with rent but a lot of times it's illness.  The breadwinner can't work so they fall behind quickly. It's only a short term issue that then becomes a long term problem because they can't stay in their home.

The 10 Cares RYSE Up Roanoke telethon is raising money for to get these children into homes by the start of school. From 5 a.m. to 8 p.m on Wednesday, June 29, WSLS 10 and United Way of Roanoke Valley are teaming up to hold the 10 Cares RYSE Up Roanoke Telethon. While the telethon will be happening throughout the day, starting at 7:30 p.m. WSLS 10 will be airing a live half-hour telethon special!

RYSE, which stands for Rehousing Youth for Success in Education, is an initiative by the United Way that works with local schools to identify homeless children and put their family on the pathway to self-sufficiency.

On June 29, there'll be three different ways for you to donate and help this cause.

  • Call: Just dial 1-866-975-7697 and you'll be connected to someone in our phone bank who will take your pledge
  • Online: Go to www.uwrv.org/ryseuproanoke to donate
  • Text: Send the message "RYSE" and a dollar amount to 41444. You will then receive a link to fill out an online form. Standard message and data rates apply
  • If you want to donate before the telethon, that's fine too!