Osceola County makes plans to help homeless student population



OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - The Osceola County School District is taking new steps to deal with a growing homeless student problem.
District officials said there are more than 3,600 homeless students in the county, but the state thinks that number is actually higher.
District leaders plan to meet next month to try to find ways to help the homeless students and their families.
For Kenneth Pareovani and his family, home is a motel on U.S. 192 in Kissimmee. He said his three children long for something much more stable.
"They know they're not in a home. They do want their own home. They ask for their own home," Pareovani told Channel 9 reporter Ryan Hughes.
According to state guidelines, a child who lacks a regular and adequate nighttime residence is homeless.
In Osceola County a large number of young children and teens live in motels that line U.S. 192.
"We're at 3,621 -- 3,621 homeless kids out of 58,000 is a significant number," said Osceola County School Board member Jay Wheeler.
Wheeler said the problem has gotten out of hand.
He said the district just hired a homeless coordinator to help homeless students by putting together meal and after-school programs.
Hughes checked and found a number of other central Florida school districts are facing the same problem.
Orange County, which has three times the number of students as Osceola, has more than 6,000 homeless students in the district.
Wheeler said he wants to help parents of motivated homeless students find permanent housing     and stay in the districts with the hopes of offering college scholarships.
"What we really need to do is work to break the cycle of homelessness for these students, that's what we really need to be doing," said Wheeler.
Pareovani said he agrees with Wheeler.
"It's tough because they are in transition and that means they have a different set of circumstances than other children," said Pareovani.
Wheeler said the state generally says the district underreports the number of homeless students, meaning state statistics are higher than those provided by local districts.