Campaign Raises Funds to Help Homeless Students in Broward - NBC 6 South Florida

Providing families with tools to get the most out of their children's education

Campaign Raises Funds to Help Homeless Students in Broward



    Many kids go to school during the day, but have no place to go once the bell rings after school. (Published Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015)

    Samara Clark is like any other second grade student at Dillard Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale, with one major difference: When the last bell rings, she has no home to go home to.

    "You gotta sleep in the car sometimes," the 7-year-old said. "I sleep in the back, and mom sleeps in the front or sometimes I sleep in the front with mommy."

    Samara's mom just got a job, so things are looking up, but single mom Passha Clark is a long way from saving up enough money for the first and last month's rent, along with the security deposit required to rent an apartment.

    Clark said she tried every homeless shelter in South Florida and found no vacancies. Still, she maintains a facade of optimism around her daughter.

    "I try and have a good attitude overall, so I can succeed and also for her not to see me hurting, you know, because I don't want her to see me hurting and then she starts hurting, you know?" Clark said.

    Here's the thing: Samara's case isn't all that unusual. According to the Broward Education Foundation, at any given time, roughly 2,300 kids are homeless in Broward County. 

    "Those are the ones we know about, the documented children classified as homeless," said Ned MacPherson, a board member at the Broward Education Foundation. 

    MacPherson came up with the idea of starting a crowd-funding campaign to raise money for the daily necessities we take for granted. Things like toiletries, feminine hygiene products, school supplies, and gift cards to grocery stores.

    "It's our job as a community to step in and reach out to these kids and let them know there is a helping hand, that we can help them when it seems like the whole world is turning their back on them," MacPherson said, pointing out that it doesn't take a lot of money to make a huge impact in a homeless child's life. "This money's going directly to the immediate needs of these kids."

    The foundation produced a documentary featuring Samara and two kids who went through high school homeless, both of whom are now in college on academic scholarships.

    Consider for a moment how hard it would be to do high school level homework and keep up good grades for a student who doesn't have a safe place to sleep, a clean place to shower or a reliable food source, let alone a computer with Internet access. 

    One of the kids in the documentary said she tried to kill herself several times, but decided instead to tough it out. The boy in the film, Paul, said the one gift that changed his fortunes was a bus card, because he didn't have to ride his bike 11 miles to school anymore. Paul is now a freshman at the University of Southern California. He did everything he could to disguise his homelessness when he was in high school.

    "There's this look people give you, this look of pity, and I hate the look of pity, it makes me feel as if I'm inferior to the person I'm speaking to," Paul said. 

    The reasons for homelessness among kids vary greatly, from a parent losing a job, to a parent having an unexpected medical emergency, to being disowned by parents who can't tolerate a gay child. It's heartless, but a reality for too many kids. 

    In Samara's case, she has one loving parent who seems intent on finding a permanent home for her daughter.

    MacPherson said the next step in the Broward Education Foundation's efforts will be to tackle the housing issues. 

    "We can make Broward County the case study to turn this problem around, it won't happen overnight but with each step in community involvement we can do that," MacPherson said.

    You can watch the documentary and make a donation by clicking here.

    Get the latest from NBC 6 anywhere, anytime