An alarming number of students in Pueblo City Schools do not have a place to call home. According to February reports, 1,523 students reported they do not have a permanent address, and have spent some of this school year homeless.
Even more surprising is the growing number of teens who survive on their own. 57 students have to find shelter by themselves, many do what’s called “couch surfing” living at various friends houses, or they simply live on the streets.
These are the latest numbers from Pueblo City Schools. They take an annual student survey as part of the district’s compliance with the federal Title X program. The program is aimed at helping students in homeless situations.
And the numbers may be even higher. Posada officials say this is because most teens don’t choose to report it. Many times they are reluctant in order to not let their peers know, because they are running away from unstable homes of foster homes, or are afraid of getting in trouble with the law.
Anne Stattelman, Director of Posada, says that the numbers are indicative of Pueblo County’s high poverty rate, reportedly one of the highest in the state. According to the 2010 Census, the county has the highest child poverty rates in the state, an alarming 31 percent.
Stattelman says over they years the rate of ten percent for students reporting they were homeless sometime during the school year, has been fairly consistent. Where she becomes even more concerned is the number of those who do not have a family is growing.
Stattelman says many teens turn to unsafe adults who provide shelter or basic needs in return for favors, including sexual favors.
She wants youth to know they don’t have to turn to those measures to get their shelter, transportation, education, or medical needs met. She wants them to know they have the support they need.
"If they know that there are resources out there that they can get their needs met and a safe place, in a safe way, and they trust an agency or another adult, that's what we are trying to make happen. That there are people who care, there are services for them, they don't have to live that lifestyle if they don't want to,” said Stattelman.
Stattelman also hopes teens will realize how much potential they have, the talents they have, and will use their resilience to create a better future for themselves.
While there is no shelters for youth South of Colorado Springs, Posada can house teens 18 years or older, and can help the younger students find a safe place to stay.
Posada also provides outreach services, where they go out into the community and search for these teens who have become masters at blending in. They want them to know they are not alone, and that there is help available not only with Posada, but in the Pueblo community.
Pueblo City Schools does the survey annually, but count the numbers of students reportedly homeless three times a year. These numbers are from the latest count in February of 2012.
These numbers do not mean that the students are always homeless, but reported that sometime during the school year they were without a home or shelter.