Homeless families face new challenge as school districts turn to virtual learning

Homeless families face new challenge as school districts turn to virtual learning

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There’s no doubt the new school year is going to be stressful for parents and students, especially for those returning to class only online.

But thousands of Charlotte-Mecklenburg students will face those challenges in the midst of another crisis, being homeless.

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If you watch Suzanne Myers with her children, it’s clear to see they’re her whole world.

Myers fought back tears as she shared her struggle with Eyewitness News anchor Allison Latos. Job loss and money troubles forced her family onto the streets.

Last month, she turned to the Salvation Army women's shelter for help.

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Now, Myers faces a new worry of how her 6-year-old son, Giovanni, will receive an education when CMS students return to learning online only.

“We’re already behind,” Myers said. “Me and my family and all the families that are in the shelters are already working from the bottom. So we’re already behind.”

“Some of them have very special needs, not to mention, having a hard time with access to technology devices. Also, what we know about some of our moms is, that they don’t have the education to even tutor their children,” Deronda Metz of the Salvation Army said.

Metz said there are close to 700 kids staying at various shelters and hotel rooms across the Charlotte area, but there are thousands without a stable home.

4,100 homeless students were enrolled in the McKinney-Vento program last year. 

CMS is not required to come up with a specific plan for them as the district begins online-only education. So, area non-profits are trying to figure out how to ensure they aren’t forgotten.

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Finding locations, transportation, meals and supervision comes with a huge cost -- roughly $4,000 per homeless child for the school year.

Myers doesn’t know how she’ll juggle caring for her family, but she’s determined not to let them be forgotten.

“There is no option to give up,” Myers said. “These are my kids. If I give up, there is nothing for them here.”

If you’d like to help non-profits care for homeless children during the school year, contact CMS McKinney-Vento Special, Sonia Jenkins, at Soniam.jenkins@cms.k12.nc.us.