MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho marked Homeless Awareness Day at an event organized by the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust.
Carvalho said homelessness is an issue affecting South Florida schools.
"Over 5,000 school age children right here in Miami-Dade are homeless," he said. "Three hundred of them live in shelters."
Carvalho's familiarity with homelessness goes beyond the school system. For him, homelessness is personal.
"As an undocumented child, I was homeless," Carvalho said. "It takes one to know one and it takes one to help a homeless person."
Born in Portugal, Carvalho came to the U.S. after high school in the early 1980s. With no legal immigration papers, he worked construction jobs in South Florida and spent a month sleeping in a friend's UHaul truck.
"I slept in my friend's UHaul where he kept his paint," Carvalho said. "I will never forget the smell of that paint, which I breathed in and the smell stayed in my lungs during the day."
Carvalho worked his way through Broward College and Barry University. He taught math at Miami Jackson High School, eventually becoming an assistant principal, administrator and superintendent.
This year, he was named National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators.
"If you think you know the face of homelessness, you are probably wrong," Carvalho said. "It's not just the panhandler living under a bridge. It's people like me, and people like the kids in our school."
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