WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School officials say, on the first day of school, over 400 of their students won’t have a home to go back to once the last bell rings.
The actual number figure is 435 homeless students. Including their younger siblings, who are not yet old enough to attend school, the total is 568 homeless children in the school system.
That is compared to 507 in the 2013 school year, which is about a 10 percent increase.
For Thomasina Williams, and her son, Terrell Kobe Bryant Williams Bolton, their homelessness began part of the way through the final semester of last year.
“It hurts. It hurts that I have to go through this with him, because I’ve never been in a shelter before,” said Thomasina.
Terrell says he was never embarrassed; but it was a struggle.
With no personal space, and without a quiet place to study, Terrell’s grades began to drop.
“I wanted to do my work. It’s just that, I worried that, what’s going to happen next? What’s the next move?” said Terrell.
Today at the Lake Family YMCA in Winston-Salem, with the help of school officials and NASCAR driver Matt Murphy, about 80 of the homeless students received free haircuts, backpacks and other school supplies to get them ready for the school year.
School officials say of all the homeless students they serve, about two percent of them are what they call “unaccompanied youth.”
“These are young people that are not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian,” said Melissa Ledbetter, homeless liaison for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools system.
The good news, Ledbetter says, is that many of the homeless students and their families do find homes during the school year. The same goes for Terrell and Thomasina, who plan to move into an apartment within the coming weeks.
Terrell knows he’s not alone in the struggle, and although he’s not ashamed of it, he knows other students are. So, for them, he has a message:
“Don’t look back. [It’s] hard. It is hard. But just keep moving forward.”