Houston ISD offering resources to help families facing eviction

HOUSTON – In 2022, 80,000 evictions were filed in Harris County, according to data compiled by the consulting firm January Advisors. Researchers said more and more families could continue to be affected.

In the Houston Independent School District, thousands of students are in need of help when their families face these tough circumstances.

KPRC 2 has looked into the many outreach programs available to help some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

It has been several years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, then paused, then continued the eviction process for thousands of families across Harris County.

On Friday, Houston-area families are still facing evictions at alarming rates.

“It’s an issue that has been in our community for quite a while now and we saw the impact of it be amplified during the pandemic. It is important for our community to understand that is a very real issue that a lot of our families deal with,” said Executive Officer of HISD Student Support Services, Dr. Candice Castillo.

According to data from the Justice of the Peace Courts analyzed by the consulting firm, January Advisors, Harris County filed 80,000 evictions in 2022. Those numbers could continue to rise.

Dr. Castillo, who helps run student support services at HISD says, in the largest school district in the state, 80% of HISD students are economically disadvantaged.

“We see families who are going through very stressful situations, and it is proven by research that when our students’ well-being is taken care of that they can do better in academics,” said Dr. Castillo.

Dr. Castillo said that well-being means having stability in their home life. That includes having basic needs met, like food and housing.

“We try our very best to make sure we can provide for the need right there and then. If it’s food insecurity they are going through, we have strong partnerships with the Houston Food Bank. If it’s something more like housing, we have a team that works with them, that can support them in their unique situation,” added Dr. Castillo.

Many need shelter because they have already been evicted. Some families have just started the eviction process.

“We have resources that can help them. We have a plethora of student support services that can prevent them from getting too deep in the aftermath of the stress it can cause,” said Dr. Castillo.

Crystal McConnel and her family went through the eviction process.

HISD helped connect her to services to get her rent back on track.

She said they helped her family stay off the street.

“I had a lot of things going on. Not too many people to help me or understand. I explained to them right then and there, (and) help was there. Not no parole officer, not no demands, it was there. Through the pandemic, it was there. It was better than the pandemic,” said the mother of two.

If families qualify, they can get help catching up on rent and stopping the eviction process.

They can also be eligible for counseling, medical appointments, homeless education, foster care, clothing, school supplies and food giveaways.

“We are part of a community, so what impacts one part of our community is going to impact sooner or later one of us, and I truly believe that if we are able to take care of issues at the front end at the very beginning of the issues, everybody’s going to be better off,” said Dr. Castillo.

Dr. Castillo said there are wrap-around services at every HISD campus and families should not be afraid to come forward, regardless of a language barrier or immigration status.

“We want to ensure that our families are not stuck on a cycle, but it doesn’t need to be that way. We want them to be able to aspire to be better. We all ask for help and we need help – the pace of the world today is so different than before and we need to know we are moving along, and we are bringing people with us,” said Dr. Castillo.

“You don’t have to be scared to talk to anyone. You talk to them first, so you don’t get in trouble. That’s what you do,” said McConnell.

Dr. Castillo said the first step is to let a school counselor know your family needs help.

They can go right to their HISD campus. A counselor can connect them to the right department.

They can fill out a student assistance form or anyone can fill it out for them. The school will follow up with a plan of action.

For families dealing with food insecurity, every week, the Brock Reengagement Center holds a food giveaway for families in need.

Head to 1417 Houston Ave. and use the entrance on Edwards Street.

The next food giveaway will be held on April 26 at 9 a.m.