Special Report: Sacramento’s Homeless Student Population Exploding

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — At first blush when talking to 14-year-old Lamonte Franks, you’d never know he’s homeless.

“First period, science, second period, computers, third period, English,” he rattles off his school schedule.

Lamonte’s 11-year-old sister, Lashelle, who’s in the sixth grade, is a bit more willing to talk about it. She’s looking forward to having her own room some day.

street smarts Special Report: Sacramentos Homeless Student Population Exploding

Lamonte Franks, 14, goes to school during the day and lives in a homeless shelter at night. (credit: CBS13)

“At school, do kids, do they know?” CBS13’s Sam Shane asks Lamonte.

“No,” he replies.

Their mother is Diane Williams. She’s 46, she can’t find a job, and she doesn’t have a place to live.

A homeless shelter in Sacramento, St. John’s Shelter Program, is home to Williams and her kids these days.

Their day typically starts at 5:30 a.m. Lamonte takes a shuttle to a regional transit train, which he rides to school.

When he gets to school, chances are Lamonte will not talk to the other students about being homeless.

“Some people know. Some people don’t,” he says. “Like if they ask me where I live, I’m like, ‘I live in the shelter, like most people don’t know.”

Lashelle says kids know that she’s homeless.

“Yeah, some of ’em do and my teacher knows,” she says.

All of it weighs heavily on Diane.

“It’s so hard to keep them positive and keep them going to school and keep them on the right track,” she says, crying. “Because if you blink an eye, the streets will take your kids and I don’t want to be one of those mothers who, my kids skip school, or my kids, I don’t know where they’re at or something. I’m not that type of mom.”

Diane’s struggle is one shared by a growing number of families.

“I have seen an increase, yes,” says Brenda Ginther, a third-grade teacher in Sacramento.

In fact, Brenda and other teachers in the Sacramento City Unified School District have seen a dramatic increase in the number of students who have no home.

In their district alone, the number of homeless students has doubled from nearly 900 to more than 1,800 in just one year.

“We have children living out of cars,” says second-grade teacher Nanci Gilbert. “We have children living in homes that people just told them they could live in where there’s no heat, no electricity, there’s no running water.

While her kids are at school, Diane works at a restaurant run by the shelter, making contacts and learning a trade.

“Jobs are scarce,” she says. “I mean I have tried to apply at McDonald’s. I’m either overqualified or I don’t have enough skills, you know what I mean? It’s so hard.”

Much of what she owns can be found in a few plastic tubs on bunk beds in a small room where she and her two children sleep in the crowded shelter.

“I didn’t see it coming. Never saw it coming,” she says.

But it’s here. This is life for Diane and her kids. Lamonte, who rides the train, and Lashelle, who rides a bus, go to school hoping to have what most kids in their class have — a home.

“If you could make something happen in your life for you and your brother and your mom, what would it be?” Shane asks.

“A house, money and a dog,” she says. Then add, “And a car, too.”

Through it all, Diane tries her best to stay upbeat.

“Are you hopeful for your children?” Shane asks.

“Am I hopeful? Yes.”

“Do you think they’ll have a better life than you’ve had?” she’s asked.

“I hope so. I hope so,” she says.

More from Sam Shane
  • Joseph

    The Williams’ show incredible grace under pressure. Sad commentary on the city, state, and country.

  • TLor

    We are supposed to be helping each other, to heck with the city, state and country. We were not made to rely on government intervention, this dependency on our governmnet is ridiculous!
    It doesn’t matter where you live if you know someone that needs help then help them! You can give them a job if you have a business, you can bring them a bag of food, you get them in contact with places that have affordable apartment((landlords think charity).. Nobody in this time of recession should be ‘over qualified’ for a job. If they are willing to work and have skills give them darn job, let help one another!
    I do what I can and so do my kids, stop thinking the governments will make it all better they reject good people and help people that manipulate the system. They are too entrenched in rules and regulations we can do more in a week then they can in a decade!

  • ..........

    To bad she wasn’t an illegal Alien, TheN she would be able to s.c.r.e.w over the blind tax payer, And receive everything FREE!

    • Erica

      Illegal aliens pay taxes also. Educate yourself before you speak, that is…after and if, you pull your large foot from the equally large mouth :)

      • jim fi

        Its true the mexicans & towel heads are rapping the us tax payers

      • Erica

        that’s absolutely ridiculous Jeff. I am sorry you do not realize that everyone even “illegal aliens” are not contributing to taxes. Here’s a thought to ponder: Who are the real ALIENS here, PILGRIM?
        I swear the uninformed sound so ridiculous on these forums!

    • steve

      you got that right, here in Texas (illegals), they r better off than the US citizens!! Thats sad!!

  • hsj

    “INCREASE REVENUES TO THE STATE”: (While our children are in poverty, abused and rendered homeless by the govt)


    17600. (a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
    (1) The Legislative Analyst has found that county child support
    enforcement programs provide a net increase in revenues to the state.

    • Erica

      Illegal aliens pay taxes also. Educate yourself before you type something that may end up showing your ignorant. Then you will not have to deal with the embaressment of having to pull your huge foot out of your equally large mouth :)

      • hsj

        ??? misplaced comment?

    • hsj


    • hsj

      Many, if not all, govt agencies / judiciary, Family Law Courts, CPS, Social Services are fraudulent. Its a process of Extortion and abuse to the taxpayers and victims. Big funding for a cause but little or no service to the victims / children. It is INTENTIONAL.

  • ssj

    there be more homeless everyday, feel bad for the kids, notice that its never brought up in congress! Because the Rich don’t want nothing to do with them. Further more, why in the Hell r we sending Money, Food, Ect, over seas, but not doing enough for our own here?!!! There are alot of Children thats go to sleep hungry every night here, what a sad thing. one of these days, theres going to be a uprising agaist the Haves and Haves nots….Think about it!!

    • Erica

      Whats really sad is, there is enough food and resources to feed every person in this world yet, we play selfish and try to hoard things an then distribute to who we see fit, when in reality if we’d just come off of the hoard pile and let it out of our palms just as quick as it comes into our palms, every single hungry person could be fed both U.S. and overseas. It is a fact! Greed is what makes things like starving people.

    • Erica

      Yes ssj one day, you are correct. But things have not gotten bad enough yet. But it will :) and when it does I will not even be suprised to see your prediction come true. Look at Syria!

  • cinderella

    Homeless kids but hey Sacramento wants to spend multi-millions on a sport arena that only a few thousands of the well off can afford to go see the teams play. Well we see what happens to some protesters such as the occupiers. hsj is 100% on the money, but their rules are made at the state capital and they have to follow them even tho its migraine headache time when american young adults are thrown to the wolves and illegals are given a DREAM ACT.

  • Concerned Citizen

    It’s a Tea Party America, folks!

    Don’t worship the money? Then out on the streets for you!!!

    Community is built on common sharing of the citizenry.

    Community is DEAD in the USA – only MONEY RULES!!!!

    Go on and worship your money, you stupid godless American PIGS!!!!!

    • jerseycat07503

      you know the line a==hole if you dont like it leave it

      • a_see-er

        You’re nothing more than a mere maggot that will one day be smashed on the sole of the shoe of truth and supreme justice. Repent. The day is nigh…..


      • revlisa

        i was born in Sacramento,CA my perents and grandparent, and before all born in California, but did you know tecnically I AM NOT A CITIZEN according to congress. yet, i get NO HELP as either an american or an alien. but more importantly where should i go? where is my country? i belong here but i am NOT recognized by the USGovt.

  • jerseycat07503

    I dont get it,we have families with young kids living in shelters and out on the street but Mayor Johnsons biggest concern is getting a new arena for a team that stinks.there must be some thing that can be done for these people.I know how hard it is to have a job and make ends meet I can not imagine trying to get through the day with out a job.

  • Sugah t

    Im very proud of Diane and her children for sharing their story. God bless them and I hope this is a wakeup call to others out their to speak up in hopes of finding a solution to this increasing problem HOMELESSNESS

  • Codee1405

    It is really sad to see a story like this especially when I have neighbors who are frauding the Section 8 system out of $1,000’s of dollars each month. I called Sacramento section 8 housing to report the fruad. The person on the line told me they have to give them notice before coming out and researching any problems. I told them that is like the police calling the drug dealer and telling him we will be out on Wednesday to search your house.

    They have 9 people living in the house when there is only suppose to be 5 people. They are collecting rent and not declaring that to section 8. They have been on section 8 for 9 years since they were in there mid 30’s. Unreal

    Section 8 is a joke and must have an end date like all state funded programs. They get $3500.00 a month in state assistance. Unreal

    • Greensleey

      CH 13, I would to see you do an investigation on Section 8. Really $3,500 that seems like a LOT of money, how in monitoring Section 8 to make sure the rules are being followed. Seems to me we could lower the $3500 to something a bit more reasonable and use the balance for someone like Diane who could use it as well. Come On California, Gov. BROWN look around!!!

      • Erica

        I can assure you that 3500 is absolutely NOT the ammount alotted for a family to find housing it is much much lower. On average a 3 person household will receive an alotted rent ammount of 500-900 that gets paid directly to said landlord. Geeze where do these people come up with their facts around here? Lol

    • jim fi

      Sec 8 is a federal program and yes you should report the fraud,the money they are recieveing for the rent is payed to the landlord

  • Greensleey

    lol you all a lot to say but I don’t here anyone of you offering to help this family. I have a lot of respect for Diane taking care of here kids and keeping them out of trouble while trying to keep it all together and looking for work at the same time. Step Up People!!

  • Erica

    Diane is not the only one keep in mind….St. Johns Shelter houses manyyyyy women and all of their children. Take a tour of the shelter, you can call and set up a good time. Go donate some time to the kids that have to live day in and out there. Have gently used childrens clothing or womens attire? (especially business appropriate attire, but of course casual clothing is always needed) Please, go to St. Johns to donate. Any items or services you may have to offer, chances are, it is needed, and not to mention APPRECIATED by the women and young ones going through that ordeal. Have a business and could use some help? Many women need work experience to build some sort of job history for themselves, by going to St. John your sources for help would be unlimited and ongoing. Help one another.

  • http://www.generositynews.com/free-van-for-homeless/ Free van for homeless | www.generositynews.com | Generosity News

    […] van for homeless TV station CBS13 recently carried a story about a homeless family from Sacramento – out-of-work single mother Diane Williams, 46, and her […]

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