ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) — Going home after school isn’t always an option for some students in Abilene ISD.
Homeless Foster Care Liaison for AISD Darrin Cox says, “One of the big things in Abilene is there’s not housing for youth.”
Cox says two years ago the district had about 1,400 students classify as homeless.
“That’s under the McKinney Vento Act, that you can be living with a parent but you have lost your home and now you’re living with a grandparent, so you’re living with someone else because you cannot afford your own place, live in a hotel or motel,” Cox says. “We do have a few that live on the streets for a little while,” Cox said.
But these students are not alone. Cox works for a program called the AISD Homeless Student Ministry.
“It’s a ministry that we try to help our kids,” Cox said.
The program offers students basic necessities and a safe place to turn in their time of need. Being homeless, Cox says, also puts students at a high risk of experiencing human trafficking as well, something that Stephanie Rocha with Beyond Trafficking says happens in our own backyard.
“That’s definitely something I’ve seen in the past month or two with some of the youth that I’ve worked with that have wound up being trafficked here in Abilene,” Rocha said.
She also addressed why it happens to these students.
“So they make decisions that they normally wouldn’t make and they choose people they wouldn’t normally choose to hang around, and that’s how they get exploited,” Rocha said.
By helping meet the students’ needs, Cox is hopeful that fewer kids will be exploited and fall victim to this crime.
“If a kid or a family is in need, I try to help them,” Cox said.