Hidden Homelessness in Williston | VideoEvan Kruegel | 2/9/2013
That means anyone who lives in an RV or camper, is technically homeless. And that`s creating an interesting situation in the schools, where homeless numbers have climbed significantly.
"It`s been growing every year. Four years ago we had 16 homeless students, now we have 138,” said District One Superintendent Viola LaFontaine.
That accounts for nearly five percent of the district`s enrollment. To help, it provides free or reduced lunches, backpacks, school gear and even winter clothing if needed. The underlying issue is that this support can be requested by anyone who falls under the homeless definition.
"I would suspect there are people making $100,000 who are considered homeless,” said Koeser.
Fanessa Schneider`s daughter will start school next year, and while she`s aware of the support offered by the school, she says she won`t be abusing the system. "I don`t know of anybody that does that, but I can see how it would be easy to take advantage of it. I would never do it myself, because I know what we make, and we`re well above the line of needing that assistance."
While technically homeless, she says her family is doing just fine in their camper.
"It`s not something I`d feel comfortable with going to bed at night. There`s a lot of kids who do need those free supplements, and I think it takes away from them, especially when the school district is in need of such assistance right now, and their struggling to meet demands. I would hope most people wouldn`t take advantage of that."
The district says it doesn`t believe the homeless support offered is being abused at all. But to make sure, it employs a homeless liaison to check out family situations before offering support.
"I think they`re pretty honest and legit with what we have going on,” said LaFontaine.
That`s a good thing for the district, because while a portion of the homeless students might not need the support, there are some who do. And any dollar taken away by someone abusing the system is a dollar that could have been spent on a child in need.