Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Homeless Students, Heroic Students

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Homeless Students, Heroic Students

Article excerpt

From their experience in New Hampshire, the authors have derived recommendations for concrete? actions that schools can take to help homeless student.

JOE AND Heidi met at a Florida high school during the fall of 1989 and quickly became serious about each other. Both students' home environments were far from ideal. Joe lived with his mother and her abusive boyfriend, and their drinking frequently led to loud -- sometimes violent -- arguments. Heidi lived with her mother and stepfather in a home where there was more bickering than love. Their domestic problems helped the two teens bond together in hopes of creating a loving and supportive relationship.

The desperate living conditions they were both experiencing caused Joe to call his father in New Hampshire and tell him about the problems that he and Heidi were struggling with. His father agreed to let him move north, and an uncle paid Joe's plane fare. Heidi did not move to New Hampshire immediately. She did move out of her mother's house, though, and bounced around a couple of places in Florida before moving to New York to live with her grandparents.

Heidi admits that the move to New York was a calculated one, because her mother would not have allowed her to leave home to be with Joe. Within a month after Heidi moved to New York, Joe came for her. His father and stepmother agreed she could live with them. But there was one restriction: they could not be sexually active.

Joe and Heidi agreed. For the first time, things appeared to be falling into place for them. They lived in a more stable home, in which they could finish their schooling and earn high school diplomas. But they were in love, and, within a few months, Heidi was pregnant. Heidi was told she had to move out of the house immediately. A teacher at the high school, who taught classes for pregnant teens, heard about Heidi's troubles and contacted the local shelter for the homeless. "We knew the rules, and we goofed," Heidi now says. "But we never thought it would come to [our being homeless]."

Living in the shelter solved Heidi's housing difficulties, but it posed problems for her relationship with Joe. He did not want to leave the security of his home to live in a shelter, but he couldn't leave his pregnant girlfriend. "I felt tom. What should I do? Go with the woman I loved and become homeless or stay with the family I loved? What family do I go with?" Joe wondered.

Joe made his decision. He moved into the shelter with Heidi. They were married, and both the wedding and the reception were held at the shelter. With the help of the shelter providers, they continued to attend high school and received prenatal care for their baby. Heidi was an A student and earned an outstanding achievement award for her work in her law class. Joe, an average student, found that he enjoyed school much more in his new living arrangements than he did when troubles at home pushed education off his list of priorities.

Both Joe and Heidi felt far older than their peers. Though they seldom had time to be |kids,' they did go to the prom. Heidi found a dress at a used clothing store for $50, and Joe bought the $20 prom tickets. Instead of going out to a restaurant for their prom dinner, they ate at the shelter. "I would have liked all the extra stuff for her," Joe stated. "Fancy restaurant, limo, and all the fun stuff that a lot of my friends are doing. But it's too expensive."

After graduation, Joe and Heidi made decisions about how best to keep their life in order. Heidi moved back to Florida to live with her mother while she awaited the arrival of their child. Joe began a five-year hitch in the Navy. He chose to enter the service because of the instant paycheck it provided his young family. "We're banking on the fact that the Navy will be the beginning of the end of our struggle," Joe said, hoping that he would be assigned to a base where Heidi could soon join him. …

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