ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — There are hundreds of students in Round Rock ISD who are experiencing homelessness, and the district said those numbers are the highest they have ever been.
“I have never had 703 in November,” said Desiree Viramontes, homeless and foster care liaison with Round Rock ISD. “I have never seen numbers like this.”
When some people think of homelessness, they might assume it is the people we see living on the streets, but that’s not always the case.
“They could be living in a hotel or motel, they could be in transitional housing, they could be in a traditional shelter,” said Viramontes.
Elizabeth Heno is a single mother with two kids. At one time, she was experiencing homelessness and moved in with a family member to help her get by. When she heard about the families in the transition program at Round Rock ISD, she wasn’t sure about reaching out, but once she did, she said her life changed.
“I remember needing the support and not being sure if I could reach out and ask for it,” said Heno.
Heno said one of the toughest parts of being homeless was not being able to get her kids new clothes or supplies for school.
“Myself I couldn’t afford Nikes or Vans… that wasn’t in my budget,” said Heno.
So when her daughter asked for new Vans, she went out of her way to find some at a thrift store.
“I gave them to her and she went to school the next day,” said Heno. “She was like look at my new Vans, telling everyone about her new Vans, because it was her first pair she had ever had, and one of the little girls said those aren’t new, and I remember coming home and it hurt her.”
“The best way to blend is a nice pair of kicks and a new backpack,” said Viramontes. “If you are wearing cheap shoes, it is like a marker and we don’t want to do that.”
That’s why she offers new shoes, backpacks, clothes, blankets and food in her office next to Round Rock High School. Her job is to help connect students and their families with resources. Those small handouts can go a long way and help some families pull in a little extra income.
“She was like, ‘Before I was in this program I was having to spend $50 a week on groceries, and now I am not having to do that, because they eat at the school, and you provide the other meals for our family,'” said Viramontes.
Heno is now working in the same building she would visit to pick up these resources. She said she has a place to call home and enjoys helping others who were experiencing what she was going through.
Viramontes said there could be hundreds of other students who classify as homeless in the district, and she hopes they will soon reach out for help.
According to McKinney-Vento Law, resources that are offered to families include:
- Remain in the school he/she was attending when they became homeless.
- Be immediately enrolled in public school, even without the records normally needed for enrollment.
- Be immediately enrolled in public school, even if they have missed an enrollment deadline for that school.
- Immediate enrollment without proof of guardianship if he/she does not have a parent or guardian.
- Transportation to and from the school that the child was attending when he became homeless.
- Access all programs or services for which the child is eligible including special education, afterschool care, and nutrition programs.
- Dispute any school enrollment, selection or eligibility decision.