80 children at risk after Mosley Motel closes

Posted at 5:42 PM, Mar 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-09 00:15:40-05

More than 80 children and their families will be back on the street because the motel they are living in is shutting down. Now, Pinellas County school leaders are taking drastic action to make sure these high-risk kids stay enrolled.

The Mosley Motel has been battling the City of St. Petersburg for years. The city has said it's dangerous and a nuisance. The motel maintains it's a place for people to stay, and it should be allowed to remain open.

People living at the Mosley Motel spend each day wondering if this is the last day they'll be allowed to stay.

Ginger Smalley, a resident, has seen kids grow up in the motel. She's lived there for years.

"They may end up on the street," Smalley said. "It's very terrifying."

The Mosley Motel is dealing with a lawsuit against the City of St. Petersburg. However, school board members said the motel could end up closing at any time. Smalley said that is going to throw the lives of the more than 80 kids who reside here into chaos.

"Think about it this way," Smalley said. "What if it was one of your kids living here?"

Pinellas School Board Member Rene Flowers said these kids are already facing the toughest of challenges, including homelessness, poverty and hunger.

"It's a little hard to study when you have four children and two adults in a room that has two queen-size beds," Flowers said.

The school board is taking action before these families are back out on the street by giving Mosley parents access to job referral programs, offering up counseling and social services and transitional housing they can afford.

School leaders are working with the housing department and other nonprofits to help families move and prepare.

"It's putting many pieces of the puzzle together because we don't want to move a family and then next week, they can't afford to pay for where they are," Flowers said.

Flowers hopes this will help keep these high-risk kids in school and remain stable for now.

"For a child, that means a lot because they can focus on being a child, they can focus on their homework assignment," she said.

"I think that's what they need to do," said Teresa, a Pinellas parent who lives at the Mosley Motel. "A lot of kids stay here and I'm sure that would help them a lot."

It's still unclear when the doors of the Mosley Motel may close, but the hope is that these families will be prepared if that day comes.