WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — For teens around the country, the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a challenging time, even more so for students struggling with homelessness.
It’s fair to say Matthew Williamson bounces to his own beat.
“I’m all over the place,” he said.
The high school senior is always thinking about the people closest to him.
“I usually help my mom at home, focus on school,” Williamson said. “Try to help other kids.”
He also like to pay it forward.
“If you help somebody, something good is going to help you back,” he said. “I get that all the time with all my friends, family. Really anybody I meet.”
He says nine years ago his life looked a lot different.
“I had to go live with my dad for a year,” he said. “It was very tough because I know my dad loves me, but it was hard being away from my mom. My mom had to live on the streets for a little with my sister, which I didn’t think was right.”
A few years later his mom got a call from the Lord’s Place and Matthew and his family moved into their family campus.
“We are definitely seeing an increase in homelessness and a lack of affordable housing,” Marie Garcia said.
Garcia is the Family Campus Program Supervisor for the Lord’s Place.
“We’ve been blessed with opportunity to provide families with section 8 vouchers recently, so we are making a dent,” she said.
Even still— according to the National Education Association more than 400,000 homeless students have slipped through the cracks during the pandemic and are not receiving the support and services they need.
Garcia says a support system is critical.
“Engaging families in activities continuously throughout the year,” she said. “Just in different ways, in creative ways.”
For Williamson, it’s paying off he is one of 3 seniors on the family campus graduating this year. He’s heading to Palm Beach State college to study marine technology.
“It’s not about what you going to do it what’s you want to do,” he said. “You can kick through it.”