The Road Home: Despite hardships, two Spokane students excited a - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

The Road Home: Despite hardships, two Spokane students excited about where they are going

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For the last year, the Bais kids and their mom, Jennifer, have lived in a broken down motor home with their mom’s friends. For the last year, the Bais kids and their mom, Jennifer, have lived in a broken down motor home with their mom’s friends.
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SPOKANE, Wash. -

When the bell rings at Stevens Elementary School in East Spokane, 9-year-old Josh Bais and his 10-year-old sister Jalisa get on the bus.  The ride home is wild and crazy, just like the Bais kids’ journey in life.

For the last year, the Bais kids and their mom, Jennifer, have lived in a broken down motor home with their mom’s friends.  It’s a small space, but every person has a place to lay their head.  Josh sleeps in a compartment above the driver seat.  Jalisa sleeps below him where the passenger seat once was, and their toys are stored with other belongings in giant, plastic storage containers on the driver’s seat.  There’s a tiny sink where water from the outside hose runs constantly, and there’s a place for a small burner next to it.  Jalisa is in charge of dishes and sweeping.  Their mom and guests – usually friends – sleep on the bed in the back, which runs the width of the motor home.  The kids love it back there because that’s where their favorite possession sits, their TV.  Josh tells me he also likes the fridge because it’s usually full.  Jalisa likes their bathroom; it’s small but at least it’s their own. 

The kids haven’t had much to call their own in their short lives.  Their blue RV is the closest thing they’ve had to a home in three years.  It doesn’t run. Jennifer tells me that a year ago, the former owner had the motor home towed into its spot in the trailer park just south of Trent.

The RV is a step up considering where the kids have been; sleeping in motels, homeless shelters, and their car.  Jalisa remembers smelly feet in her face while four of them tried to cram into a car to sleep for the night.  Eventually, Jennifer and her husband would sleep in a tent next to the car.  Josh says that was more comfortable and that he felt safe because they could lock themselves inside the vehicle.

No matter where they lay their heads at night, Stevens Elementary has been there for them everyday for the last three years.  Stevens Principal Heather Richardson says she knows the consistency and stability of school has made a difference for this brother and sister.  Josh and Jalisa have had ten address changes since they started at Stevens, and they’ve taken the bus from each of those temporary homes to and from school the entire time.

The Spokane Public School District’s Homeless Education and Resource Team – also known as HEART – gives homeless kids in the district the chance to stay in the same school until they find permanent housing.  It is part the McKinney-Vento Act, a federal law that requires the district provide homeless students transportation from their current residence to the school where they first enrolled.  HEART provides transportation like busses, taxis, and mileage reimbursement for 258 of the district’s 599 homeless students.

Sarah Miller with HEART says remaining in the same school is vital to a child’s success.  She says statistics show a child – homeless or not – loses 3 to 6 months of academic progress any time they move.  Add to that the stress that comes with being homeless and it becomes apparent that bouncing from school to school is detrimental to this young transient population.

Josh and Jalisa say they’re thankful their mom continues to keep them at Stevens. They say they know the people there love them and care about them.  And Jalisa says she knows the education she’s receiving will lead to a brighter future down the road; one that allows her to get a good job and buy a big house where she can take care of her mom and little brother forever.

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