Nearly 3,000 homeless students in Northern Kentucky are hiding in plain sight

WCPO Published November 13, 2017 0 Plays

Rumble - Tessa Bowling and Zander Hughes never thought of themselves as homeless. But when Bowling looks back at the nearly two years she lived in a youth shelter, and Hughes looks back at the time he was a runaway staying with friends, they realize they technically were. “I was still a teenager when I was kicked out of my uncle’s house,” said Hughes, now 19. He was 17 when he ran away from his father. “I didn’t have anywhere to go. I called around, needed a couch to crash on and went from place to place.” Bowling, who is now 18, was 16 and a half when she went to the shelter after living with her aunt didn’t work out. “I always had a roof over my head,” she said. “When I went to the shelter, I didn’t want people to know I was there. I wanted to stay below the radar because nobody wants to go out and say they’re homeless.” That stigma, along with a lack of reliable data on homelessness in Northern Kentucky, leaves children and youth who experience homelessness there largely invisible.  Shelley Werner But a group of 40 people from 19 different organizations has been working to shine a spotlight on youth homelessness in the region to help the community understand just how big it is. They’re especially focused on getting the word out now because it’s National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week from Nov. 11 through Nov. 19. “It’s a huge problem in our community,” said Shelley Werner, the families in transition coordinator for the Erlanger Elsmere School District. “Once you lose your housing it kind of gets into this vicious cycle where you’re just trying to keep up all the time, and it affects everything down the line.”