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Tampa program aims to get kids out of poverty

Posted: 7:06 AM, Oct 02, 2015
Updated: 2015-10-02 07:06:19-04

A lack of affordable housing, low-paying jobs, substance abuse and domestic violence are all contributors to the local homeless population.

Metropolitan Ministries estimates 25,000 people locally are homeless.

One of the fastest growing groups is families with children.

Now there's a program working to get kids out of poverty. 

At the non-profit’s shelter, 250 children wake up in a 450-square-foot apartment every day.

“There's one room for the mom and a second room for the kids. We have room for three children,” said director Christine Long.

It’s rare to see a room empty, because almost daily, 20 families knock on the door begging for a place to stay.

“They may be staying their car, or someone's garage or living on somebody's couch,” said Long.

The kids that do get in go to school across the street at Patricia Sullivan Elementary School.

“Often times when you talk to the children and ask if they are homeless, they are going to say 'no I live at metropolitan ministries,'” said Long.

This year, the school is unlike anything they’ve seen.

“Kindergarten and 1st grade had to share a classroom last year and we didn't have a cafeteria or a library,” said Destine.

Now students have a state-of-the-art library.

And thanks to the Patel Conservatory, they have ballet every Thursday.

The class mirrors what professional dancers learn at the Straz.

They’re not only practicing pliés, the kids are learning team work, discipline and skills to change their life.

Thursday they got free ballet shoes.

“Now that we have shoes we look like professional dancers,” said Naomi.

It’s a small gift with the goal of breaking the cycle of homelessness.

If you ask any of the kids what they want to be when they grow up, it seems like it’s working.

“If I practice ballet now, I can have my stamina and I can be a professional football player and can have balance,” said William.

Naomi said, “I want to be a dancer and an artist.”

“A veterinarian,” said Destine.

The community also helps to break the cycle. Right now these children need school uniforms and mentors in their reading program.

For more information contact the school at (813) 347-4160 or go to http://www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/schools/0123/