Students by day, homeless at night

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Around 2:45 in the afternoon, a Madison County school bus is making a special stop on the route.

The bus pulls up in front of a simple brick building known as the New Futures Family Lodge, the only shelter in the county to house children of both genders up to 18 years old, single mothers and single fathers, like James Cook.

Cook has lived at New Futures for two months, with his two young children and four other families.

The number of families stays low due to limited space, but it's still hard to find peace and quiet to study.

"I've had a steady job at the same place for going on five years now, and been a full time student as well," said Cook.

He is in school to become a certified machinist. It's part of his long-term plan to get to a better place.

"Bad things do happen to people who are motivated, who are hard working, who are trying to provide the best they can for their families," added Cook.

The family member they were living with passed away, and with the loss of income, James ended up losing their home.

"It's that easy to find yourself in a hopeless situation. I just don't want it to negatively impact my children, confidence, self -esteem, I don't want them to be singled out by other kids," said Cook.

There's 53 children right now registered homeless under Athens City Schools Federal Program, 63 in Decatur City Schools, 105 in Madison County and 123 in Huntsville City Schools, including Cook's children.

Pamela Patton is the federal program's specialist in Huntsville, who acts as the liaison between the schools and their homeless students.

With federal funding, Patton secretly supplies and equips these students with what they need in the classroom, uniforms, school supplies and hygiene products.

"They should be able to walk in with new clothes at the beginning of the school year, a new book bag, and all their school supplies just like anybody else," said Patton.

The funding source through No Child Left Behind also allows Patton to give students tokens for a city bus, distribute gas cards to parents and on occasion, get a taxi to swing by wherever a student is temporarily calling home.

Most recent numbers from the 2012-2013 school year, statewide, show there are 16,259 students registered homeless.

The U.S. Department of Education defines homeless children as "those who lack a regular nighttime residence, including children who are living in motels, shelters, campgrounds, or those who are doubled up, meaning living with relatives or friends."

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, does not - leaving lots of families ineligible for assistance.

Food assistance charity Manna House makes special deliveries to some families.

Currently, Jamie's family of six is living in a Huntsville motel.

Jamie, who did not want to be identified with her last name, has been living in the motel with her family for 19 weeks. She has a 6th grade daughter and a 4th grade son, whom she gets ready for school every morning.

"It's very hard because this is the first year we've ever been without a home," said Jamie.

The year changed fast after her daughter was hit by a car while walking home. Broken bones cost money, especially with no insurance. Then it was the car that broke down.

Her husband works in construction more than 40 hours a week. Jamie stays in the motel with her two youngest children because daycare also costs money.

"Sometimes things happen to where you are kind of stuck, until a miracle or you can financially get out of it, what are you supposed to do until then?" added Jamie.

Homeless advocates in Madison County believe there is a real need for housing, just for families.

Manna House Director Fran Fuhler said the need is for a residential facility or even a hotel transformed into housing, so families can stay together.

Click below to find out more information behind the organizations mentioned above.

Manna House:

National Center For Family Homelessness:

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