THIS community has a heart for students . Ellen LoBue, LCSW HEB ISD Social Worker, hears about the needs in our community on a daily basis and earnestly seeks out positive solutions. Renee’s story is a perfect example.
Renee’ is one of the 876 children in the HEB ISD classified as “homeless.” She lived in her car for a month before finally asking a school friend if she could stay with her family for a while. Her friend said she wished she had asked sooner. Renee’ is grateful to her friend, and her father, who she said, “treated me like his daughter.”
Renee’ said at first she didn’t want to ask for help but now knows there are many others like her who need help. When asked about other homeless children in the HEB area, Renee’ said, “There are a lot more than what people realize. It’s really hard to be a teenager and make good grades to get into college while working two jobs and trying to support two younger brothers.” She said while it has been very hard, “it has made me a stronger person.”
Renee’ was taken from her Mom when she was seven. She has two younger brothers. Renee’ stayed with an extended family member and her mom was granted weekly visits until she stopped showing up. The court eventually terminated her mother’s right to visit and she and her two brothers were separated for a year.
Foster parents, Karen & Randy, took Renee’, her brothers and several other children into their home. Renee’ said Randy and Karen were “like the Mom and Dad I never had and helped me become who I am today.”
While Renee’ is very thankful for her foster parents she believes it is important for people to understand that foster care is very difficult for children. She said children are shuffled around and often times separated from their siblings. A couple wanted to adopt Renee’ but didn’t feel they could adopt her two younger brothers, so she respectfully declined the offer.
Renee’ grew up fast by necessity and has always taken care of her two younger brothers. She feels responsible for them and their well-being. “The foster care system is very hard and it’s not something I would wish for anyone to go through. They don’t see what the kids go through. You end up playing a mommy role – there is no time to be a kid,” Renee’ explained. “Foster kids are troubled. People don’t understand. Trust is very hard; we push people away and don’t let people in.”
When she was 15, Renee’ and her two brothers were told of a family who wanted to adopt them. They moved to a city about 2½ hours southeast of the HEB area. They lived with them for one month to get to know each other then the family decided they could only adopt Renee’. Again, she was appreciative but was unwilling to leave her brothers.
At that point, Renee’ moved in with an extended family member but the relationship was strained. She looked forward to school and spent a lot of time studying. A school counselor said Renee’ worked very hard in school, had excellent attendance and would have qualified for dual credit or IB classes if her work schedule had permitted it. Renee’ made all As and just graduated on the State Recommended High School Plan which is oriented toward college and career readiness.
Recently, Renee’ learned she would need to find another place to live within three days. She went to a school counselor who encouraged her and told her not to worry. Renee’ said she was sad and frustrated. “All I could do was worry,” she said. She was able to stay with another friend for a week. Then the school counselor put Renee’ in touch with Ellen LoBue, LCSW HEB ISD Social Worker. Mrs. LoBue contacted Scott Sheppard, 6 Stones Mission Network Executive Director, who in turn, contacted Cindi Scoggins, Manager, Westdale Real Estate Investment & Management. The next day, Mr. Sheppard received a call from Ms. Scoggins who said, “We are holding a one-bedroom apartment for this student if she needs it…until she leaves for college.” Then, John Scott of Scott Homebuilders, who had just dropped off $2000 for 6 Stones/CPR from the sale of a home, heard the story and he said, “We have model home furniture in storage…call if she needs it.”
6 Stones would like to extend a very special thanks to Westdale Real Estate Investment & Management and to Scott Homebuilders! Ellen LoBue heard about the need, reached out to the community and that’s when an apartment manager and a homebuilder answered the call. It is this kind of community spirit and camaraderie that enables 6 Stones to meet more needs.
Now that Renee’ has the apartment, she said, “I don’t have to worry about a place to stay now. I have a sense of security. I have a place to go home to, my home, and it makes me feel a lot better. I am so grateful that the community has helped me.”
“One of the things we hope that will come out of this in the future is some sort of host home program,” explained Mrs. LoBue. “A lot of people who live in this area have three-bedroom homes with seniors graduating and they could allow a child to stay there. We would like to be able to put a program together, get letters of recommendation from the school and match up 15 or 16 or 17-year-old students with host homes and give them safe places to live.”
“A lot of teenagers won’t tell you they are homeless. They don’t think anyone will help,” Renee’ explained. “They need to know that there are people who care and who want to help. That is why I am sharing my story.”
Renee’ plans to attend college this fall. “I plan to major in sociology and work in political social work so I can help kids who went through what I went through,” she commented. “It’s what I want to do for my profession. Other kids can see me and know I made it. I saw what my mom went through and I didn’t want that for myself. Someday, I want to have a family and be the best mom for my kids and be there for every game and every recital.”
Renee’s greatest needs at this time as she works two jobs through the summer include gas, car insurance and money for college books. If you would like to help and/or if you are interested in finding out more about the need for host homes in our area, please email EllenLoBue@hebisd.edu.
Renee’ shared her story because she wants other students to know there are people who care and who want to help. You can help support local students by sponsoring one or more children through HEB ISD Operation Back-2-School. To learn more, visit sixstonesprod.wpengine.com/back2school.