PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Struggles started during the pandemic for the James family and they haven’t stopped.
“It was just managing the best way that we can, just survivor mode,” said Anthony James.
James and his wife have five kids and last month the whole family was living out of their cars.
“Down here in Palm Beach we have no family and so, we staying in the car, and in and out the little money I did have was spent on hotels and that has ran out,” he said.
WPTV is not showing the children to maintain their privacy.
The school counselor at the kids west Boca Raton school linked the family to a network of 40 organizations that offer clothing, food, gas cards and a place to stay.
“If you identify the homeless student to us were able to wrap support around this family as they are going through this experience of homelessness ,” said Maura Plante.
Plante is part of the Student Life Alliance. She also runs Living Hungry, an organization that sends bags of food and vitamins to schools for homeless students.
“If the counselor tells me, ‘Hey I have a new family this week,’ which is what happened with this family, and we have three students, so I'm going to need more food,” she said.
Last school year the Palm Beach County District identified just over 4,400 students who were homeless, living at friends or other family member’s homes, or out of their cars or hotels. Every year the count starts again and already there are 3,400 homeless students.
“I expect that number will go up this year ,” said Palm Beach County School Board Member Erica Whitfield.
She said the district hired a program planner overseeing student homelessness. The added resources have helped find more homeless students within the school system. Last school year Whitfield said the district found 250 students were living on the streets.
“Those are really tough numbers when you think about how many students we have that are living outside not having access to food or shower, a warm place to be, a safe place to be,” said James. “And then still have to get up and go to school without having to do their laundry things that we take for granted every day.”
James said despite their situation, his 6, 11, 14, 16, and 18 year olds didn’t miss school and even turned out good grades.
“I’m trying to lay a foundation in my kids to know that you’re not a plague, you’re not disease,” he said. “[Homelessness] does not discriminate, it happens to anybody.”