SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – More Bay Area students are homeless than ever before, with 20,000 schoolchildren having no fixed place to sleep at night.
"Some of them are staying in overnight shelters, some of them are couch surfing, sometimes families are staying in their cars," said Elizabeth Ancker, Program Director at Compass Connecting Point, the intake and placement center for homeless families in San Francisco.
"We have women who were mail-order brides from Russia who came over here. They got married, they got pregnant. It was an abusive environment. They had to leave and they ended up homeless," Ancker said. "Then we see families like Vicky, who are holding down full-time jobs as a substitute teacher, but can't make ends meet because housing is so expensive."
Vicky has two teenagers. Her ex-husband is not paying child support and she lost her apartment at Parkmerced in San Francisco. There is no room for the family at local shelters.
"We tried at Raphael House and we got turned down, and I'm on the list here. I was told there was a six month wait list," Vicky said. So she and her 15-year-old son are staying with friends in Oakland, while her daughter stays in Marin. "I hate it," Vicky said. "This is the first time we've been separated and it's very difficult because – even homework and stuff. I'm calling her and asking her, what's for homework. We're trying to do it over the phone but it's hard."
20,000 Homeless Bay Area Schoolchildren – How Did We Get Here?
Her daughter had to switch to a school in San Rafael, while her son Jordan is in 10th grade at Lincoln High in San Francisco, commuting very early every morning from Oakland.
"It's pretty hard because sometimes, if we're far away, I have to wake up extra early just to get to school," Jordan said. He has quit the football team and his grades are way down. "Pretty bad. I got stress. Bummed out every day, I guess."
Ancker said the combination of soaring housing costs, deepening poverty and worsening domestic violence is driving the increase in family homelessness. This woman, whose name we will not use, fled an abusive husband with her two young children. "The first chance I got, which was seven years into the marriage, I ran for it," she said.
She has a kindergartner and a second grader in San Francisco schools. One of the biggest challenges while they were in shelters? Finding someplace to do homework. "Either the park, or going to McDonald's or something like that. Anywhere with a bench," she said.
They finally landed a transitional apartment at Clara House, getting off the street for now. "Every step since I left was a step up, and miracles always come through right when you need them the most."
So how do schools and teachers handle all these homeless kids? We'll look at that in Part 4 of our KCBS Cover Story series on Thursday.
HOW TO HELP:
Clara House – Compass Family Services
Hamilton Family Center
San Francisco Unified School District –Homeless Children fund for field trips, prom dresses, other expenses.
Contact Jan Walker 415-241-3030 x13338
California Homeless Youth Project
KCBS Cover Story Series: Our Homeless Schoolkids
A five-parts series, running through Friday, December 19. Airing on KCBS 740/106.9 at 6:30am, 8:30am, 12:30pm, 4:30pm and 9:30pm.
for more features.