Area schools see increase in homeless students

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Eau Claire, Wis. (WEAU) -- It's an issue affecting children and their families across the country but is hitting Wisconsin harder than most, even occurring more often in our local schools.

This year the Eau Claire school district says it's seeing a large increase of homeless students.

Last year the district says at the end of November it was assisting 99 homeless students. This year it's only October and there are already 125 homeless students needing assistance.

Dani Claesges knows better than most what it's like to go without. "I definitely did not grow up with everything that I needed and I certainly know what it feels like to not have everything that you're expected to have when you're showing up for school for your first day," says Claesges.

So, she set out to make sure every child within the Eau Claire school district never has to feel like less than anyone else, through the district’s Homeless Program.

"They’re just going to have a much easier time going through the homeless situation if they have things like supplies, and support, and the winter wear they need when they go outside,” says Claesges explaining one of the many reasons the program assists the homeless students.

However, with the U.S. Department of Education releasing statistic showing Wisconsin increasing 14% in the number of homeless students, much more than the national increase of 8%, it may feel like an uphill battle.

“We did see a larger increase in Wisconsin in the 2012-2013 school year, from the previous year than we did see nationwide,” says Madeline Daniels with the First Focus Campaign for Children. “But, this is a trend that's happening all over the country, as families continue to struggle form the recession and housing crisis.”

Daniels says out of 17,000 Wisconsin homeless students, many aren't getting the assistance they need.

“Because of the limited definition of homelessness used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development there are 13,000 Wisconsin students who aren't getting access to the assistance that they need,” says Daniels.

Despite the increase Claesges is doing her part to make sure area homeless students are taken care of.

“We just don't want to see kids jumping around from school to school, that's just academically not healthy and this program is here to make sure that doesn't happen,” says Claesges.

She adds, she appreciates all the support she receives along the way saying, “Nobody every prepared me, for how thankful these families would be.”

Claesges says no matter how many donations the program receives, it's never enough. So anything and everything you may think to donate would be appreciated, but especially winter gear, new socks and underwear.

If you'd like to donate, you can drop off items at the Eau Claire School District office.

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