DALLAS — At Thomas Jefferson High School, Quiana McCloud's three children have a chance to start over. "We've been in Dallas for almost three months," she said. "It's almost like it's normal again."
Her family was in a domestic situation in Oklahoma. "Whenever he went to jail, I just told my kids that now is our time to go." They moved to Dallas with no home. In a rush to get out, Quiana fell victim to a housing scam and lost $1,600.
It's the first time she and her children faced homelessness. "[My kids] are going through this because of my bad decisions," she said. Quiana felt responsible.
She decided to ask for help, and reached out to Dallas Independent School District after learning about its Homeless Education Program.
"They have been just a Godsend ever since. School supplies, backpacks, uniforms, DART passes to get my kids back and forth to school." She said the Homeless Education Program also helped her children with free clinics for immunizations and after-school activities.
Ashley Marshall is the manager at DISD's Homeless Education Program. She said, "It's good to see your hard work paying off in someone else's life."
She encourages families and students who are homeless to reach out for help. Ashley said, "We want to connect them to all those things so that they see a way out of a homeless situation and don't think that has to be their future."
Currently, there are 2,800 students in Dallas who are homeless. With the pandemic and the eviction moratorium ending, Ashley expects those numbers to rise in January. She also understands there are unexpected circumstances that can change a family's housing situation, like the Highland Hills apartment explosion in September, which left many children without a home in an instant.
Every story is different, but Quiana's journey is what Ashley hopes for all the families she works with. "She is making her way out," said Ashley.
Quiana's children are safe in transitional housing, and she is saving money for a deposit and rent. "I just want a home, an apartment, and for them to have their own room back."
Quiana said some days are harder than others, but reminds herself how far they have come. She encourages other DISD families in need to seek help from the Homeless Education Program.