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RYSE program helps 14 families and 42 children out of homelessness

United Way program launched in 2016

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ROANOKE – About this time a year ago many of you donated money during the 10 Cares RYSE Up Roanoke telethon.  At that time, there were about 600 homeless students in Roanoke City schools.

14 families and 42 children have now been helped out of homelessness thanks to donations from the community and United Way partnerships.

"Now that we're back on our feet it's really great to have a happy family now," said Meoshia Burgess, a 10 year old who is living with sickle cell disease.

Meoshia's diagnosis in 2015 and more than two weeks in the hospital started a downward spiral for the family.

"Just the fact of your child getting sick, having to miss two or three days from work and then you're losing income when you are at the hospital with your child," said Donna Jarvis who had to make tough decisions deciding between paying rent or medication for Meoshia.

"Your child is going to come first before anything," said Jarvis. "Making that hard decision and choosing do I give up my home, do I give up my car, do I pay this bill or do I pay that bill? Or do I make sure that my child is going to live to see another year. That's what we chose. We choose our child over rent."

After moving in with friends and getting back on their feet again, Jarvis' oldest son had an injury that left him with debilitating headaches and another period of homelessness.

"It was really not that great to be moving place to place, house to house," said Meoshia.

"They are at the age where they know what was going on. They could feel mom and dad stressing and I think they started stressing because we were stressing," said Jarvis.

Their grades slipped. It was hard on the kids and mom.

"She was always crying or stressed, really mad or frustrated," said Meoshia.

Finally, Jarvis asked for help and was connected with RYSE -- Rehousing Youth for Success in Education. Family Promise helped the family find a new place to stay and helped with new deposits.

"When we were struggling, help came from places that we would have never thought of from people that we didn't even know, never met before in our life," said Jarvis.

Now they have a stable place to live and classes to help with money so they can learn to save for emergencies. The kids can tell the difference and can focus on school again.

"We have a yard so we can go outside and run around and do some exercise. It's really exciting to have our own place," said Meoshia.