One In Five Students At Brooklyn School Homeless

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

As part of its Bearing Witness 2.0 project, the Huffington Post is rounding up a few of the best local stories of the day.

One in five children are homeless at a public school in Brooklyn, New York, reports Meredith Kolodner of the New York Daily News. Most of these kids live at one of ten nearby shelters. A federal grant has kept the school's after-schools programs open, so the students have been able to spend time reading, cooking, building robots, and out of fights until 6 p.m. "We have families who come in who need shelter," said principal Danika Lacroix. "We have mothers who come in and say, 'My husband's beating on me,'" she continued, "we make sure they get help."

The program costs $1,700 per year per student, most of which is covered by the grant. Just a year ago only a third of fourth-graders were reading at grade level. Now that number is up to 44 percent.

If it weren't for her Chihuahua, Diane Woods-Kavalski would have lost hope. Woods-Kavalski went homeless, reports Stephanie De Pasquale of the Quad City Times, after a dealing with methamphetamine addiction, being hit by a truck, and then getting kicked out of the place where she was staying in Davenport, Iowa. Her dog, Retia, was by her side through it all, but was not allowed into a local homeless shelter where Woods-Kavalski was staying.

King's Harvest, a local organization dedicated to helping the poor, offered to provide temporary housing for Retia until Woods-Kavalsksi was able to get back on her feet. The organization's new program cares for the animals of the homeless, and keeps them safe until their owners can get back on their feet. "It's very difficult for some individuals who don't have children or family. Their pets are the only thing they have," said shelter program director Cindi Gramenz, "[s]o that might be the one thing that's with them constantly that doesn't pass judgment, doesn't do whatever. It's like a kid to some of these people." Woods-Kavalski recently moved out of the shelter, into a one bedroom apartment, and was able to take Retia with her.

Mary Oddan, a teacher who lives with her 81-year-old mother outside of Bakersfield, Calif., thought she'd gotten a mortgage modification via the Making Home Affordable plan. But before she could even make her first payment, she received a notice of eviction. According to local NBC affiliate KGET, representatives of CitiMortgage at first denied they had any record of Oddan's Making Home Affordable documents after her home was foreclosed, then later admitted that she had, in fact, been granted a trial modification. For the time being, though, Oddan is still unsettled. "I'm just waiting right now for someone to drag us out and lock the door behind us. Every day I come home wondering if I still have a home," she said.

Fintress Harris bought a new home in Milwaukee in 2005 with an adjustable-rate mortgage. In 2008 his mortgage rate sky-rocketed, and in a panic he went to an organization that promised to lower his rate for a $2,000 fee. Unfortunately, reports the local ABC affiliate, Harris was scammed. And he fell for it twice. "They say they're going to do this and do that and really they really don't," he remarked. After the second scam he sought out Select Milwaukee, a local non-profit that provides advice and guidance for homebuyers. They helped him get in touch with his lender and refinance to make his payments more manageable. They also work with first-time home buyers, to keep them out of the traps that Harris fell into, and keep homeowners out of debt and in their homes.

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