Houston family who once had no beds for 5 kids shows struggles for most HISD students

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Newly released results from an HISD survey of families show a large number of students need help with basic needs such as food, clothing, health care and school supplies, according to a new research brief from the Houston Education Research Consortium at Rice University.

HISD, the state's largest school district, conducted the survey in 2019, compiling feedback from 60,000 individuals including students, parents and teachers.

Rice University partnered with the district to analyze the results, which they say showed alarming numbers.

"If families are struggling this much in these areas in 2019, I can only imagine what it's like now," said Kori Stroub, a research scientist at Rice University.

Their research shows 17% of students say they routinely feel hungry at home. One in four families has trouble paying mortgage or rent and one in three students regularly feel sad, lonely or anxious.

Plus, 40% of HISD students do not have access to an annual eye exam.

"Students that have untreated vision issues suffer academically ... [it] makes sense," said Stroub. "If you can't read what you're supposed to learn, you can't learn it."

Now, HISD is using the results to beef up its wraparound services.

Since the start of the pandemic, HISD began working to close the digital divide among its students and educators. As of Wednesday, HISD told Eyewitness News all HISD students who have requested a device in the district have been supplied with one. Since March, HISD has provided nearly 145,000 laptops and tablets and nearly 39,000 Wi-Fi hot spots.

In addition, food distributions have been held regularly since the pandemic. To learn more about the services available to HISD families, visit the district's website.

"It's about partnering with community groups, with non-profits, higher education, health care providers, [and] volunteers," said Rick Cruz, the chief strategy innovation officer for HISD.

Meanwhile, organizations such as Communities in Schools have been offering help to families like Cynthia Eastman and her family.

She and her five grandchildren, whom she is raising alone, were struggling before the pandemic and economic crisis. Over the years, they've had their utilities disconnected, experienced food insecurity and were living without furniture.

"For a while, like, they didn't even have beds to sleep on," said Eastman.

But Communities in Schools stepped in with beds, sheets and blankets.

"They blessed us with that," said Eastman as she wiped away a tear.
While this work is good and necessary, Cruz points out it is not enough. He said they need Houston businesses to pitch in. Similar to the massive food handouts for struggling families, they need mental and physical health care providers to rally, too.

Beyond the beds given to the Eastman students, a mentor is now guiding 16-year-old Zion through high school.

"It helps me be a better person. It helped me pass my classes and stuff like that," said the 11th grader.

The goal of these services is to lift up one student at a time, meeting individual needs to create successful student bodies.

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