NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A growing number of children in North Texas have a neighborhood school, but no home in the neighborhood… or anywhere else for that matter.
The kids carry the label of being homeless.
One Dallas teenager is familiar with being put in that category, but despite the disadvantage found a creative way to feed himself and hopefully someday his family.
The idea of cooking doesn’t seem like a foreign concept for a kid nicknamed “Chicken”. Alberto “Chicken” Preza is a leader for Skyline High School’s culinary arts program.
Foe some, learning to cook is a career skill; for Alberto, it’s a survival skill. The now teenager has been searching for a stable home, since the age of eight.
“It was until I was in the third grade that I was living in motels, not having a place to stay,” recalled Alberto.
For years Alberto’s “home life” lacked the essential ingredients – food and shelter.
For years he live in cars and with friends, a result of his mother’s death and his struggle with drugs.
Thinking back on the time Alberto said, “We lived in a car for a couple of weeks straight. I had to cook. I had to do everything for my family, you know.”
Today, “Chicken” is one of the 4,000-5,000 Dallas Independent School District students who have had more consistency in a classroom than in a brick and mortar home.
While Alberto doesn’t live on the street, he does fit the definition of homeless.
The problem isn’t just in Dallas. In the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District there are 400 students living in motels and/or shelters.
“We have a growing number of what we call “unaccompanied youth,” explained Debbie Millican with the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD. “[They are] just teenagers who are not with a family, ouch surfing, or staying with a friend or relative.”
“Chicken” Preza knows he’s not the only kid in school who doesn’t have a place to live. But he also knows why so many of those children don’t want to talk about it.
“It’s hard, and kids are mean. Kids are very mean,” he said. “And it’s hard going through life homeless, and to hear the things people say.”
For now, Alberto is living with his grandmother now and is set to graduate in the spring. Ultimately his goal is to cook for others, but his lifelong plan is to never have his brothers and sisters on the street hungry again.