ROANOKE, Va. – The number of homeless students attending Roanoke city schools not only continues to rise, it's actually at the highest level ever, and could get even higher.
"Homelessness is a serious issue across the nation and definitely right here in Roanoke city," said Taisha Steele, a Roanoke city schools counseling director.
There are 670 children in Roanoke city schools who don't have a permanent home. It's a record high for the district, and Steele expects the number to climb above 700 before school is out.
"The trauma aspect can directly impact their learning in the classroom. It could also impact them socially because of the hardships they're going through," said Steele.
Counselors listen to the fears and struggles when school is in, and Straight Street Ministries founder Keith Farmer hears those stories during his after-school programs.
"Put yourself in their position when they're talking to their peers, when they share, 'This is where I live,'" said Farmer. "That's not an easy conversation to have."
Straight Street donated 100 air mattresses to the school district so students can at least have a bed of their own every night.
"By having an air mattress, that's something that can be deflated, folded up and packed up, that's something that can travel with them from home to home to home," said Farmer.
Between Straight Street's donation and the thousands of dollars Roanoke city students have raised for the homeless over the years, Steele hopes these kids believe they can succeed, despite what they're going through.
"We're not here to judge. We're not here to increase the information around the stigma. We just want to be able to help our families," said Steele.