Despite Difficulties, Homeless Family Gives Thanks for Bay School System

By: Kristy Wolski Email
By: Kristy Wolski Email

More and more jobs are being lost as the economy continues to worsen. Along with losing jobs, families are losing homes, and that means they could end up on the street, along with their children.

Homelessness is a problem right here in Bay County. Hundreds of children and their parents don't have a permanent place to live. But the school district is trying to make the lives of these students a little easier, through a special program.

The women who work in the homeless education program strive to make , not just the holidays, but every day merry for bay district's homeless students. You might be surprised to know that of the district's 27,800 students, 417 of those are homeless.

"Most of the families we deal with want to work and want to have shelter and there's not decent employment out there. Even if they work full time at minimum wage they can't afford a place to live," said Kay Daniel, Bay District Homeless Liaison.

Social workers Kay Daniel and Donna Penton run Bay District's Homeless Education Project. Together the two of them tackle the huge issue of homelessness in Bay County. Penton spends some of her time with Bruce and Patricia Davey, who live with their son Joshua at the Panama City Rescue Mission. The Davey's admit raising a child without a home can be tough, especially near the holidays.

"I tell him all the time you have to help as much as we're helping you. You can't let yourself get down because none of us can get down. We're only down for a little bit and we will get back up," said Bruce Davey, homeless parent.

Through all their tribulations the Davey's are staying positive, thanking the school system for providing their son with his needs.

"He had a book fair at school and I didn't have the money and Donna made sure he had a book," said Patricia Davey, as she fights back tears.

Obviously Donna Penton isn't doing this alone. The funding for the program comes from a federal grant. Under the Mckinney-Vento act, the social workers strive to make life as normal as possible for these students, providing them with all the necessary clothing and school supplies. While the program provides the bare necessities, it can't supply the genuine care and concern these women have for the families.

"If you're facing a weekend and you get a call right before you're ready to go home and this family is going to be out on the street, you know, it's hard to go home and have a good weekend. You want to make sure that need is met, that that child is not out on the street somewhere," said Donna Penton.

As for the Davey's, they say they'll get through the holidays, as long as they have each other.

“I wouldn't matter to me if I had just a little pine tree, because as long as my family and I are together that's the whole meaning of the holidays. We can go anywhere and eat turkey, but if you have your family together that's basically what you need," said Bruce Davey.

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