MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — More than 400 students in the Clarksville-Montgomery County school system qualify as homeless. The number has steadily increased year-over-year.
“We are well above where we were last year at this point,” said Kristen Jaggers, Families in Transition liaison.
The school system has a team called the Families in Transition or F.I.T. team, to help those families. The lack of affordable housing and the high-cost of childcare is complicating the problem.
F.I.T. currently serves 430 students in the area.
“We saw a lot of families impacted by COVID,” said Jaggers. “There was like a trickle effect, right. You lose the job; you lose the house; you lose the car.”
The team is funded by a Federal grant. They work around the clock to connect families to resources in the community.
“This is an incredibly complex problem,” said Chris Dial, F.I.T. navigator.
Each district has its own unique challenges.
“There’s a desperate need. I mean, they’re overwhelming barriers to these students’ success. And these families deserve the same sort of equity and opportunity that every other student has,” said Dial.
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In the Clarksville area, the lack of affordable housing is an overwhelming obstacle.
“There are market fluctuations that are, of course, uprooting families who are sustaining two and three jobs at a time,” said Dial.
Jaggers added, “The lack of private owners, accepting section eight vouchers has also been a big trend that we see.”
A majority of families also need assistance with childcare.
“The biggest thing is just trying to find availability, being able to pay the outrageous amounts that you pay for childcare, like childcare is very expensive! And just something that lines up with their schedule as well. Some of these families work nights and childcare is not available at nighttime,” said Melissa Biglane, F.I.T. liaison.
Then, there’s also a need for utility bill assistance, clothes, food and simply fun for the students.
Jaggers said there are ways for the community to get involved and help.
“We see students who are wanting to participate in after-school activities or enrichment opportunities. And so if you have a business where you teach children how to do clay, there’ll be a great opportunity to get involved,” she said.
No act of kindness is too small to help a family who struggles for the bare minimum.
News 2 investigates why the number of children classified as homeless is rising in our area and what’s being done to help them in our special reports – “Homeless Children”.