KERA shined a spotlight on homeless students and the adults helping them last spring in the American Graduate series "Homeless in High School." Much of the action took place at North Dallas High, which has one of the highest homeless student populations in North Texas.
A new after-school drop-in center for those kids has just opened -- in a church across the street.
It's called Incarnation House -- after the Episcopal parish where it's housed, the Church of the Incarnation. Teresa Keenan, the executive director, gave a tour on a recent morning.
This neighborhood, near Central Expressway and Haskell Avenue, is decidedly mixed: Uptown high-rises and cafes thrive just a few blocks from one of the city's centers of homelessness.
Keenan says these kids need help.
“The whole idea is that these kids end up with a living-wage job,” she says. “Whether it’s vocational, whether it’s getting through college. It’s being able to break that cycle of poverty that is going to put them homeless maybe for the rest of their lives.”
Volunteers at the church started helping North Dallas High four years ago. One morning a week, they would take breakfast to the school’s homeless kids before class. They’re still involved with the school’s drop-in center. Only now, the church offers afterschool help four days a week.
Mark Pierce, who runs the Dallas schools district’s homeless program, says a lot of these kids need help that they can’t get before school.
“Dinner!" he says. "One of the big things that we haven't been able to provide really at the drop-in centers in the morning is tutoring, counseling, homework help and other types of assistance."
The problem has only grown. Pierce says Dallas’ homeless student population is up 60 percent over last year. The church isn’t just serving students at North Dallas High. It helps kids at nearby middle and elementary schools.
And the church isn’t the only one helping. Parkland Hospital is joining the effort. One of its five mobile medical clinics will soon make regular stops here. Susan Spalding runs Parkland’s homeless program, which provides “sick care, well child care, chronic disease care, asthma, family planning, sexually transmitted screening ... whatever those children need,” she says.
Spalding says a lot of these kids are teenagers.
“Texas leads the nation in second births to teenagers,” she says. “So making family planning services available is of the utmost importance.”
Incarnation House has been open about a month. Volunteers are working to get the word out to let kids know this is a safe place.
Meet some of North Texas' homeless students as they navigate high school -- and the people who are helping them out -- in KERA's series American Graduate: Homeless In High School.