Roanoke sees drop in number of homeless students

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Roanoke City Public Schools is seeing a drop in the number of homeless students, compared to this time last year and is crediting the change to its Help the Homeless campaign.

A space in the Roanoke City school administration building has turned into a store, of sorts. It's a place for homeless students to get the supplies they need.

"A lot of our students walk or ride the bus," explained Hayley Poland, Director of School Counselors. "So we want to make sure they have coats, gloves, hats, mittens, warm clothing. To make sure we're helping as best we can," she said.

The space is filled with hundreds of items donated or bought in since the school started its Help for the Homeless campaign in the 2015-2016 school year.

That program, started through social media, raised awareness and brought students and the community together to make a difference.

They raised thousands of dollars in cash and donations.

"We've seen about a 70 student drop in our home numbers, which we're really happy about," Poland said.

While 268 students are identified as homeless to date, it's an improvement from the 338 this same time last year.

The school system reports 35 families and 72 students have been helped with just more than $4,400 of the money raised that was put toward helping families in immediate need.

"Maybe they're not able to pay rent and we know they're going to be evicted. That's why we try to work with each family individually to see what we can do to meet the needs so they don't become homeless."

Counselors say that's the key.

"It's much easier if we can assist them in their current living situation because if they've been evicted, sometimes it's more difficult to find additional housing, to find a new place to live, to be able to get the electricity turned on."

Poland said helping families on the verge of losing their home through a loss of income will prevent a domino effect.

"We really want to make sure were getting to them as soon as we can to prevent that from happening because after it happens it's much more difficult for the family."

It's a proactive approach to help students so they can be successful in school.

Roanoke City Public Schools is planning a fundraiser next month to benefit the Help the Homeless fund.

The Breakfast with Santa event is December 10 at William Fleming High School from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for children 18 and under and for RCPS employees with a valid ID. The cost is $20 for a family of four.