Dallas has opened the doors on what is becoming a model for the nation: a first-of-its-kind youth center for homeless students in Dallas ISD.
Thousands of Dallas ISD students in class every day are trying to learn, yet have no place to live.
“We have over 4,000 homeless students,” explained DISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa. “But we also have over 200 which are unsheltered. They don’t have a place to sleep at night.”
Dallas is now cutting the ribbon on the first youth center strictly for homeless teens in the nation.
“When adults step up and be adults and take care of the children in our city, it can be a really extraordinary thing,” said Tony Fleo, the CEO for Social Venture Partners Dallas.
The Fannie C. Harris Homeless Students Youth Center is a sanctuary away from the streets.
“Find a safe secure place to just crash and kind of get their legs under them,” said Larry James, CEO of CitySquare. “Work on homework. Have something to eat. Clean up. Take a shower. Wash their clothes. All the kinds of things that need to happen.”
High School student Kevin Lee and his mom had a wonderful life until it was wrecked through no fault of their own.
“When I was 16, my mom and I lost our home to a flood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” he said. “And after that, we found ourselves homeless.”
Lee hid his homelessness throughout high school.
“I went to homecoming. No one knew I was homeless,” he said.
After graduating valedictorian, Lee and his mom came to Dallas and graduated from Paul Quinn College.
“Since then, I’ve been able to work and serve on the board of After8toEducate to help open up this facility and help young kids have that chance to thrive and succeed,” he said.
The shelter is designed for those who stop by and the few hundred who have no other place to call their own.
Dallas businessman Jorge Baldor is behind this total effort to help homeless in Dallas ISD, including sheltering those who now make their bed wherever they can.
“We're very conscious in this space to accommodate individual needs,” he said. “This is not a cookie-cutter answer. This is not a stair-step approach to every student's gonna be the same.”
The idea was initiated more than a year and a half ago by former school board trustee Bernadette Nutall.
“I am ecstatic. I’m excited,” he said. “As a collective impact, we can do so much more when we're better together.”
The homeless youth center is named after Fannie C. Harris, one of three black educators hired to teach at the first high school in Dallas for black students. She was born a slave, but she overcame what seemed impossible odds.