Waco I.S.D. sees increase in homeless students

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More than 1,600 Waco Independent School District students finished the school year struggling with homelessness. That's a little more than 10% of the total student population. 

Last year, 1,119 students were considered homeless, and  that's almost 500 less students than this school year. 

Kathy Wigtil, a case manager for Waco I.S.D. Homeless Outreach Services said things such as economic hardship, or people moving to Waco from out of town could play a part in the spike in homeless students.  But she also said the training teachers now receive to help them identify if a student needs help, could also be a reason why there are more students identified as homeless in Waco I.S.D.

"Families and students generally aren’t going to come forward and tell us, oh I happen to be homeless," Wigtil said. "A lot of families don't realize that if you're living doubled-up due to economic hardship. or you're at the Motel 6, that qualifies for homelessness."

Wigtil said that team work play a big part in helping Waco's homeless student population. "There's two of us as full time staff, and a part-time data clerk, to serve 1,608 students...we work with our faculty and staff on campuses and we work with our community agencies to provide services to our families and our homeless students."

Dianne Suasa-Martinez, a case manager at Compassion Ministries, is one of those people in the community who helps Waco I.S.D. support their kids who do not have a place of their own. 

"They have a struggle, a little bit of a struggle that other kids in school may not have [but] we just want to make sure that they don’t feel any different," she said. 

Suasa-Martinez said that working with homeless students and Waco I.S.D, through compassion ministries -- is something she looks forward to everyday.

"They can go to school and not have to focus on anything but their studies and their education, and not have to worry about where they're going to sleep," she said. "It's very rewarding for me...It’s something that we have to do. It’s something that needs to be done and we just do it."

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