CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Did you know if you line up 100 Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) students, statistics will tell us, three of them will be homeless?
Some experts call it a problem, others say it’s an epidemic.
During the 2015-2016 school year, CMS reported 3,913 homeless students. The next year, that jumped by seven percent to nearly 4,200 homeless kids.
There are resources out there for homeless kids but they just have to be identified. NBC Charlotte's Mark Boyle interviewed Carolina Benitez, who was 16 years old when living on the streets and alone.
She found The Relatives, a shelter of off East Boulevard in the Dilworth area.
“I was out in the streets, doing what I wanted," Benitez said. “It was a domestic violence situation so the police had to take me out of where I was at.”
For the homeless kids in Mecklenburg County, just getting to school can be a challenge. Children need structure in things like meals, homework, reading time. But homelessness can throw a family into chaos.
“I think there's a large population the most of Charlotte doesn't even realize exists that are just teetering on the edge of homelessness," said Trish Hobson, President of The Relatives. "Kids especially extremely vulnerable, when their family is homeless then they become homeless,” Hobson explained.
Sonia Jenkins works with homeless students daily. She said the definition of a homeless student ranges from those who live in a shelter, hotel or a car.
We asked if there are kids in our district who don't have a physical roof over their heads. Jenkins answer was short, but haunting: Yes.
But like Benitez, these kids can be directed to the right path if they are provided the opportunity.
Benitez is now 21-years-old. She’s working on attaining her general education and is no longer on the streets. Most importantly, she is trying to give her 2-year-old baby boy the life she didn't get to enjoy, when she was younger.
“I've been homeless and nowhere to stay then homeless again and now I'm just stable, happy," Benitez said.