NewsPalm Beach County


School District of Palm Beach County has growing number of homeless students

More than 3,000 students homeless, with numbers rising each week
Posted at 12:26 AM, Apr 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-08 00:26:46-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — There seems to be no end when it comes to the number of children lacking stable housing in the School District of Palm Beach County.

Just ask Correnna Sheldon.

"There were rough times," Correnna said.

Times, for Correnna and her siblings, that no child should have to suffer.

"In her past, she used to be on a lot of drugs, and that really changed our lives and our settings," she said of her mother.

Tamarsha Sheldon, Correnna's mom, turned to drugs at 18. Years of drug addiction followed, sleeping from couch to couch with her children, to eventually a stint in prison. It split the family.

"She understood what she was going through, and she understood her mistakes and she knew she wanted better for me," Correnna said.

Correna's predicament isn't a rarity. In fact, students experiencing homelessness are all too common in Palm Beach County schools.

"The number for this year is 3,883 currently," school board member Erica Whitfield said. "We add about 50 kids a week to that number."

That number was less than half of that 18 months ago.

Whitfield said 250 children are currently living in cars.

"Palm Beach County is becoming an ever-increasingly difficult place to live," she said. "It's a very difficult place to find housing. Things are just more expensive in the community in general, so that is a big part of it. I would say the pandemic has been a very large impact."

Whitfield said three campuses in Lake Worth Beach feel the impact of homelessness at an even higher rate. The schools are Lake Worth Middle, Highland Elementary and Lake Worth South Grade.

The district provides support and resources to students through their McKinney-Vento program, which helps with enrollment assistance in addition to essentials like free school meals, backpacks and school supplies.

"And then we do connect with, not only the county, but all of the nonprofits in our community to serve homeless children," Whitfield said.

Correnna said the family's all back together now and moving in the right direction.

"I'm really blessed because today I'm living with my mom," she said. "We have the best relationship."

There is light at the tunnel for Correnna. She'll be attending FAU beginning this fall.