As families prepare to get students ready to head back to school, the process and preparations can be tough for those who are homeless.
About 4,200 students identified as homeless during last school year, according to workers at Dallas Independent School District.
This year, Rosa McPherson says her three grandchildren will be among that vulnerable group of students.
"If you would have told me years ago that I would be homeless, I would have never believed you,” McPherson explained as she sat in a lounge at Family Gateway in Dallas.
McPherson has custody of her grandchildren. She and the girls made an emergency move into the shelter this week. McPherson says she fell on hard times after the sudden death of her husband, and after being laid off from her part-time teaching job. It’s a stressful time, just days before school starts.
"When I came, that was my biggest worry. I said, 'God, I don’t have no money. How am I going to get these girls school clothes, because I don’t have no money? I don’t have a way to get them a backpack,'” she said.
The grandmother’s worries are not uncommon nor is she isn’t surprised by the large number of students in Dallas ISD identifying as homeless.
Workers at the AT&T headquarters in Dallas have been collecting school supplies. They spent Thursday afternoon stuffing backpacks for nearly 100 students, who are staying in shelters with Family Gateway.
AT&T Director and Network Engineer Shannon Reed helped organize the volunteer effort. "They’ve got about 70 children there now in a 30-bed facility, and it’s about making sure that the kids get back to school and they are not ashamed because they don’t have a backpack and they don’t have supplies," Reed said.
AT&T staff, from a variety of departments, have been collecting school supplies to help Family Gateway clients for three years. They say it is about giving back and neighbor helping neighbor.
"We feel like we are able to give the tools, to help people be successful,” said AT&T Manager and author Lori Hoff. “It’s important to me, because when I was younger, I didn’t have anything. I came from a challenging background.”
McPherson says the school supplies will help her granddaughters feel a sense of normalcy.
“You’ve got to realize, peer pressure with kids nowadays,” McPherson explained. “Whatever that child don’t have, you can believe when they go to school on the first day, there’s kids that are going to point that out to them.”
Union Gospel Mission Dallas is another organization that has been assisting hundreds of homeless families. The group is helping about 200 families, mostly single mothers with children. Its staff is hosting a back to school rally for homeless mothers with children in its program from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday.
McPherson says normalcy is key as families prepare to send their children back to class.