Ouachita Parish School Board helping homeless students

OUACHITA PARISH, La. (KNOE) - Now that school is back in session, the Ouachita Parish School Board is reminding parents about the programs they offer for families in need.

Bobo says families can be on 'Homeless Status' for many reasons. (Source: MGN)

Jerlyn Bobo is the Title 1 Supervisor and Homeless Liason for the Ouachita Parish School Board. The board says their main goal is to get as many kids into school in the parish as possible, regardless of their situation.

Bobo says families can be on 'Homeless Status' for many reasons. "It's because of recent economic crisis, or it could have been a parent has been incarcerated, which causes a child to have to live with relatives or friends," explains Bobo. "It could've been a death in the family; it may have been a fire."

She says many times people won't identify themselves as homeless because of the stigma associated with it. She says last year they helped about 150 homeless students attend school.

"I try to avoid really using the word 'homeless,' I kinda say right now you're in a temporary situation of not having permanent housing."

But Bobo says she knows there are hundreds of more kids in the parish who aren't receiving the help they need. She says some parents think their child may be taken away from them if they apply for 'Homeless Status,' but she says this is just a designation that will help children get the supplies they need for quality education.

"It's hard for them to function on a daily basis in school, you know they have so many other things that they're worried about, 'What am I going to eat tonight?'," says Bobo. "You're fine at school, you get breakfast you get lunch, but you just never know what they're going through or where they have to go at night."

She says they also ask schools to waive the school fee for kids with 'Homeless Status.' Bobo says the board doesn't have a large budget, but they will try to help cover those fees, so the schools don't have to.

She also says the board provides backpacks, school supplies, and uniform vouchers. If they have clothing, shoes, or other items, they will give those to students as well. She says families often request socks for their kids, and if anyone wants to donate clothing or hygiene items, they can bring those to the school board.

Bobo says if a child is staying in a shelter or a family member's home that isn't on a bus route, they will make sure they have a way to get to school.

Bobo explains that people may apply for 'Homeless Status' at any time of the school year, but they must re-apply for each school year.