Tulsa Schools Strives To Meet Needs Of Homeless Students

Tuesday, February 19th 2013, 6:09 pm

There are increasing numbers of homeless students in Tulsa Public Schools. As of last week - the district had 1,305 students who are homeless.

The common denominator is almost always family poverty, but not always - sometimes it's just families who are broken apart, or parents who kick children out the house.

Every day in Tulsa Public Schools, Loida Delgado gets phone call or two about another homeless student. Their numbers are increasing in TPS or at least the awareness of them is increasing.

"I think that's part of it, that it has grown, because people are more aware of it," said Loida Delgado, TPS Homeless Coordinator.

"Before they didn't know what to do and probably just took care of them at the school."

Hale High School is typical - out of 1,100 students on the campus, 58 are homeless. They require a variety of the usual services for the poor, but they get extra attention in the office of Abbey Ojeda.

She starts with a backpack full of the basic supplies.

She says identifying the homeless students is the hard part, because few students want to be identified that way.

"And then you have high school boys and girls who go from friend's house to friend's house, who think they're not homeless because they have a place to sleep," said student liaison Abbey Ojeda.

"They're homeless because they don't have an adult to take care of them."

Homeless students qualify for all the anti-poverty programs and benefit from some private donations as well. Back at Delgado's office, she has a closet full of clothes and she keeps drawers of everything from gloves to toothbrushes that people donate specifically to help homeless students.

The supplies go to mainly to the students who live in motels or homeless shelters. TPS has several bus routes just for them.

"We go to all the shelters and get them and try to keep them in the school of origin, to have some continuity," Delgado said.

Back at Hale, Ojeda says one thing about homeless students might be surprising: they can be good students.

"A lot of our homeless students are really good students, they have good grades, because they want to do better," said Loida Delgado, homeless coordinator for Tulsa Public Schools.

Because the need to transport homeless children is growing - and to help do that more efficiently, Tulsa plans to buy three more vans just to service routes for homeless children.

They already have three vans and some school busses going to shelters and motels.


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