Number of homeless students quadruples

Sanford Hillsman, 100 Black Men of Albany, present DCSS and CCSS with $500 check. / Jessica Fairley

Back in the fall of 2011, FOX 31 found out that the Dougherty County School System had more than 200 homeless students. Only months later, that number has quadrupled.

School officials say after they were able to conduct a survey and account for each child within the system, the number grew more than they expected.

In an effort to raise funds to support the growing trend of homelessness in local schools, Dougherty County and Colquitt County School Systems took to the green in the first ever Homeless Golf Tournament.

"We have identified over 300 children this year. Everyday I have children that are identified more and more," says Denise Pope, the Homeless Liaison for the Colquitt County School System.

While Colquitt County numbers are high, they don't make up half of the amount of homeless students in the Dougherty County School System.

Marion Stevens says right now their numbers are reaching well over 800.

"We found out we had more living in hotels. We found out we had more staying with other relatives because lack of funds to live in an apartment," says Marion Stevens, a social worker and Homeless Liaison for the Dougherty County School System.

Although the federal government provides grant funds to supplement the cost, it doesn't cover basic needs.

Children are in need of things like toothpaste, soap, deodorant, underwear, and uniforms.

"We have to do whatever we can to provide those toiletries or whatever the children need to succeed and this tournament is to help generate funds so they can have everything they need," says Marion Stevens.

When dealing with the issue of homelessness within local school systems golfers say it's best to drive the issue home.

"Our aim is to help the youngsters of this community any way that we can. So as an organization that is predicated on mentoring and helping youngsters, it is our duty to be a part of this," says Sanford Hillsman, President of 100 Black Men of Albany.

The 100 Black Men of Albany donated a $500 check to the cause. Each golfer paid $60 to enter the contest.

Anyone interested in donating toiletries or funds to either school system can contact Marion Stevens with the Dougherty County School System at (229)-431-1282 or Denise Pope with the Colquitt County School System at (229) 890-6141.

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