Socks and underwear drive begins for Eau Claire's homeless - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Socks and underwear drive begins for Eau Claire's homeless students

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - Socks and underwear, two things we put on everyday. What if you had to go without? For more than 200 local students that's a reality they face but it's far from their only worry. These students are homeless.

This is the story of one Eau Claire family.

A daily chore like checking the mail is something Jennifer Stevens is grateful for. Just 6 months ago she and her 5 children were homeless.

"I got really behind on bills and things got kind of tough. We ended up not being able to keep the place we were staying in," says Stevens.

Shortly after Jennifer was diagnosed with thyroid cancer the bills began pilling up and the family was forced to leave their home.

"It was absolutely a tremendous journey. There were times when I wasn't sure if I was gonna have a meal on the table for that night," she adds.

Today there is food to go around and the family has a place to call home.
 
Jennifer says organizations like the Beacon House and the Eau Claire Area School District's homeless program helped to get her back on her feet.

"Backpacks, school supplies, you name it, anything I needed. I'm just very grateful for all the help that we got and just to know that we can count on the people of Eau Claire to help families that are down and out," says Stevens.

Adds Dani Clasges from the Eau Claire School District's homeless program, "We certainly want them to use their money to go toward their permanent housing, not toward socks and underwear if we can help it, because we want to see them get out of homelessness."

This year 211 students have been referred to the district's homeless program.

"Allot of students, homeless teens are starting to pop up and it is because their families are already struggling money-wise and then to have a student that is almost at that age where they can provide for themselves, the family is saying you need to do that because we can't afford to have you stay with us anymore," says Clasges. "We do have a male who has come into town recently. And he is attending school now but he is living in his car. So we're trying to get what he needs and being in his car he needs a lot."

And those basic needs begin with socks and underwear. That's why WQOW News 18 is partnering with the Eau Claire Area School District to launch the "Top Drawer Drive."

"On the cold winter nights when you need an extra pair of socks, they were there and they wouldn't have had that if it wasn't for donations. You know now that we're at the point where I'm stable and able to do things my family has a saying of paying it forward. We're planning to prepare meals for Beacon House and things like that just to say thank you for all the things, all the help that we got over this past year because if it wasn't for that we wouldn't be where we are," says Stevens.

She adds, "It's important to remember that everyone needs help at some point in time. There's no reason why children should be suffering."

Tuesday marks the kick-off of the "Top Drawer Drive". When we heard about the number of homeless students in Eau Claire and how many of them are in desperate need of everyday items like socks and underwear we wanted to help.

We'll be collecting items here at our station, located at 5545 Highway 93. If you're wondering about sizes, anything that would fit a child in Pre-K on up to a high school senior. You can also drop off donations at the district office on Main Street.

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