More than 1,500 students enrolled in Fort Bend ISD and Lamar Consolidated ISD are without a consistent and reliable roof over their heads, according to a local nonprofit observing National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. Approximately 2% of students in Fort Bend County experience some form of homelessness whether they are living in a shelter, a hotel or a motel or doubling up with a friend or other family members.

Parks Youth Ranch Executive Director Shannon Stavinoha said her organization helps to combat youth homeless issues within Fort Bend County. The eight-acre ranch at 11614 FM 361 provides emergency shelter, counseling, and life-changing services to abused and neglected youth ages 7-17, Stavinoha said.

“In Fort Bend County, our homeless look different than which you would see in more urban areas, such as Houston, like living on the street,” Stavinoha said. “We use McKinney-Vento’s definition of homeless, which are kids who lack a permanent, stable house. They are considered homeless if the home is without electricity or running water or the home is considered uninsuitable (to live in).”

The shelter also encounters many teenagers who “couch-surf” from home to home or who live in hotels. Stavinoha witnessed firsthand many of the tragic stories exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We had a young man whose mother worked in the fast-food industry but still couldn’t afford an apartment for them,” Stavinoha said. “She ended up renting a storage unit (to live in) so he could continue his high school career. When Covid hit, she lost her job and wasn’t able to afford the storage unit. Some are really one paycheck away from being homeless.”

Stavinoha urges residents to visit www. parksyouthranch.org to view the organization’s wishlist of products for their shelter. She also encourages residents who can go to a school and ask if any families are in need.

Stavinoha pleads with residents to refer anyone in need to any of the organizations willing to help.

“We can’t serve everyone but there’s a lot of need for these families and kids (than) we can ever imagine,” Stavinoha said. “Some of the easiest ways to help us out is to go to our website and look at our wishlist. We are always looking for hygiene products and snacks for our kids.”

Many of her teenage residents prefer Hot Cheetos, Cup of Noodles and Takis, Stavinoha said. For more information, call 281-392-5794.

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