ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – An Abilene ISD closet serving students experiencing homelessness assisted around 1,300 children this school year – a number that has been consistent with past years. However, the district said the closet is facing its largest need for donated items ever, which is needed to stop a larger issue in the community. 

Darrin Cox is the homeless liaison for Abilene ISD, and he said he had a recent encounter with a young boy at one of the schools. 

“[He] stepped in a big mud hole, one of our kids, and just totally destroyed his shoes,” Cox described. “He wasn’t going to get to go to class because he couldn’t go barefoot.” 

Because of the Abilene Student Homeless Program, he was able to get another pair of shoes. 

Cox told KTAB/KRBC he has been able to help other students like this little boy, giving out more than 1,100 new pairs of shoes this year to students in need, and he wants to help more. However, the district said it is largely in need of donations, now asking the community to help through a shoe donation drive. 

“It’s really not numbers of homeless students rising. It’s that we are able to help more often. Plus, if their families come in and need some things, we try to help them, too,” explained Cox. 

Although it may look like the closet is full of shoes, Cox told KTAB/KRBC there are typically double the amount they currently have. Usually, there would be bins full of extra pairs to restock, but what is shelved is all they currently have, and he said it won’t be enough to give all of the AISD children in need shoes next year. 

Aside from the regular call for service and action to help our local children, Cox said there is another major issue on the rise, putting these students at risk: Human trafficking.

Executive Director of Beyond Trafficking in Abilene, Stephanie Rocha, said these children are the most at risk for trafficking in town.

“When people don’t have the most basic needs, that’s when exploitation happens,” Rocha said. 

In agreement, Cox continued, “They reach out in many different ways of ‘how can I get a new pair of shoes, or pants, or whatever it may be?'” 

However, Rocha and Cox said offering basic needs like clothes and shoes can help prevent this. 

Drop off locations for this shoe drive include:

  • The Well Abilene – 137 Mesquite Street
  • Broadview Baptist Church – 2500 South 27th Street
  • Oldham Lane Church of Christ – 5049 Oldham Lane
  • Radiant Life Church – 3440 North 1st Street
  • University Church of Christ – 733 East North 16th Street
  • Aldersgate Abilene Methodist Church – 1741 Sayles Boulevard
  • First Financial Bank – All locations
  • Abilene Teachers Credit Union – All locations

The closet is located at 5340 Hartford Street. It also has a drop-off basket to donate shoes. These locations will be open for drop-offs during their normal business hours.