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Wealthy Town with a Homeless Problem

“When you think of Oxford, homeless isn’t usually the first word that comes to mind. Usually, you would think of a big city, but never Oxford Mississippi.”
Davis McCool, the 18-year-old editor in chief for The Charger, Oxford High School’s newspaper, said about the recent issue of homeless students in the Oxford School District.
“I was astonished to find out that 93 students in the district were registered under ‘The McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act,’” McCool said. “Little did I know, there are hundreds more that just aren’t registered.”
McCool recently won Mississippi Journalist of the Year in part for his breaking news story on the issue.
“Obviously, it’s a huge issue,” McCool said. “We really wanted to get the word out, and we really wanted to raise awareness to this issue that most of Oxford had no idea existed.”
Billy Canale, 2010 graduate of Oxford High School and current Oxford resident says the idea of any of his classmates being homeless is intolerable.
“It deeply saddens me that kids are living in homelessness with no control over their situation,” Canale says. “I’m thankful that light is being shed on the situation and that people are becoming aware of the problem.”
The Oxford School District, along with members of the community have begun trying to combat the issue through a GoFundMe that has raised over two thousand dollars. The community is also trying to face these issues head on with organizations like More Than a Meal and Love Packs, which offer food and supplies for these students.
“Personally, a lot of my friends and I, we’re much better off than the normal person,” McCool admitted. “In a community like Oxford, you kinda, involuntary turn a blind-eye to these sorts of things and people, so it’s awesome to see so many people turn out.”
Through reporting the story, McCool found out one of the students in his class was homeless.
“She wanted to remain anonymous and I didn’t know her beforehand, never got her name, that wasn’t important,” McCool said. “Talking to her throughout the interview I thought, ‘Wow,’ this is a reality to some people in Oxford Mississippi, a place you’d never guess in thousand years, just miles from your house.’”
McCool said interviewing her really “opened his eyes.”
“Her dad was an alcoholic and her mom was a drug addict and they disowned her from the beginning,” McCool said. “Many nights she’d leave school and have no idea where she was going ‘home’ to.”
The most common places these students live are with friends and distant family members, but they don’t end up staying in one place for long.
“These are your classmates and they’re going through hell every night when they get home,” McCool said. “Her story isn’t one of a kind. There are hundreds in the Oxford School District just like hers.”
Scott Brown, 17, a senior at Oxford High School, says it’s hard to tell who may be homeless.
“I really don’t know if any of the people I know are or aren’t,” Brown says. “It’s wild to think that someone in high school, my age, doesn’t have a place to lay their head when they’re tired.”
Since having read the article, Oxford High School Principal Bradley Roberson told McCool he wanted to build some sort of shelter on the school grounds where students, faculty and community members could donate clothes and food.
“Above all else, money is the root of all problems and all help, so I’m sure these students would love your funding and help,” McCool said. “All these kids want is to be loved and have friends, just receive that loving touch. It’s something that we can do better as students when they are there amongst us.”
McCool wants to encourage everyone to see this issue and say, “I can actually help.
“This experience has let me take a step back and realize how appreciative I am for living this affluent lifestyle, in this great community, going to school in the number one school district in the state,” McCool said. “There’s no reason we deserve all these things and they don’t. I think this whole experience has made myself and hopefully, those in the community more aware.”
Story Contributed by Connor Heitzmann. Cpheitzm@go.olemiss.edu 

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