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Special Report - Children of Hope

Life Under the Stars

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Posted: Nov 13, 2012 9:31 PM

Updated: Nov 14, 2012 7:23 AM

McALLEN - Dusk heralds the end of another day and children prepare for bed. For some children in McAllen, that means finding a place to sleep in a car or a park bench.

They are the children who live in extreme poverty. The children shut out of life and stuck in poverty.

"Twinkle, twinkle, little star," a girl sings at a McAllen park.

If wishes upon a starry sky came true, the people at the park would have no more worries. Here, entire families sleep on benches and tables under the starry sky.

At the park, a mother wants a roof for her family. A father wants a job and children want their own place to play.

"We go to the park and we sleep in here," a little girl said.

"Ever since I got laid off I've been looking for another job," a woman at the park said.

The woman, "Jessica," lost her job in February. She lost her ability to pay the bills and her family turned their backs on her.

Jessica has two children. The youngest still uses diapers. Her daughter is five years old.

"I don't want more problems. I'm struggling right now. I don't want more," Jessica said.

Her daughter needs to go to school, but she is not enrolled.

"I don't have clothes for her for school. I can't give her supplies ... I don't have nothing for her ... I don't know how I'm going to get it," she said.

Jessica is not alone.

Pooja Chugani and her sisters run a homeless outreach organization. They hand out food twice a week at the McAllen City Park.

"We always had this dream of helping as much as we can," Chugani said. "We have so much and it doesn't satisfy us. And we always want to try and help."

Their project is only weeks old.

"It could happen to any of us," Chugani said.

Many Rio Grande Valley residents live dangerously close to homelessness, experts said.

Government housing is full and the waiting lists are long, officials said. Local shelters are at capacity.

Chugani and her sisters know their efforts sometimes are not enough. The women can't supply food every day. They use their own money to buy the meals.

Jessica's daughter got cookies from the women. The girl did not eat all the cookies.

"I'm saving some of them ... because they're for my mommy," the girl said.

Poverty teaches even the youngest the importance of rationing food. They don't know when they will eat again.

"It's not a good thing to feel (homeless), especially when you have kids," Jessica said.

"You don't want your kids going through what you're going through ... They're little. They don't know what's going on," she said.

"I don't have friends, because I don't go to school," the little girl said.

The children at the park know their lives are not normal. Still, they have a mother who loves them. They also have a thread of hope.

Every few nights, another family joins the growing group of people who wish life was different. They know poverty doesn't belong on the face of a child.

On Tuesday, CHANNEL 5 NEWS learned that Jessica's children now are staying with relatives. Jessica is now pregnant and still sleeps in the park. But her situation may change soon. The organization Infinite Love found a place for Jessica. They hope to sign a lease Wednesday.

Topics: poverty, mcallen, children, park, infinite love

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