She's 11-years old and at the top of her Christmas wish list is to no longer be homeless.
We introduced you to her yesterday. The story was actually about a major donation to a middle school but one little girl stood out. It turns out, the lack of a library is among the least of their challenges at Cullen Middle School. I was there yesterday doing a story on a donation of 150 e-readers to help re-open the school's library which has been closed for six years because of budget cuts. I met a beautiful little girl who was just a ray of sunshine. Then I found out the only thing she wants for Christmas is a home.
"I have plenty of time in my life to make a new start. My future is very bright," says 11-year-old Kayla Green. Sitting pretty in pink when we sat down to talk, the sixth grader is, as usual, excited to be at school here at Cullen Middle. "It's awesome for me because I like to learn new things," smiles Kayla.
She'll talk your ear off about her love for reading. "It's like the stories are just so inspiring and just so calm. I like fairy tales," she tells me. What you won't hear her do is complain. Although she and her mom have been homeless since September. "Well, my mom is looking for a new house, a new apartment and she's going to find one real soon," Kayla smiles. The mother and daughter have been staying in a motel. "It's smaaaaall," sings the sixth grader with a grin.
They share a room with Kayla's grandmother and aunt. You see her grandma has also fallen on tough times. She lost the family home after 37-years to back taxes. "We're homeless. I am officially homeless," Kayla's mother Kathleen Moore says with sadness. Kayla's mom says she struggled to put herself through college and has worked since she was 15-years-old. Moore says this is the longest she has ever gone without working. She graduated from Texas Southern University in 2010. "I was just telling her Kayla, hold on, when mommy gets her degree things are going to get better," but they haven't. Moore is unemployed. She wants a job in social work. "I want to help people. I want to prevent people from ending up in this situation like me," says Moore through tears. Although it's a career in social work she wants, she'll take whatever work she can get it. "The hardest thing is watching my daughter," sobs Moore.
"We do have a large number of our students that are homeless. Homeless doesn't necessarily mean a shelter but they could be living with a family member," explains Cullen Middle School Assistant Principal Torrye Hooper. Hooper says at Cullen there is perhaps a fourth "R", reading, writing, arithmetic and reaching out to help the kids and their parents. "Helping to make sure they have a roof over their head, making sure they have clothes and food to eat and lights on," adds Hooper. The teachers also regularly do laundry here if the children come to school in dirty clothes. "We'll take them (the clothes) to the P.E. (Physcial Education) teachers and they can actually wash them," Hooper explains.
As for Kayla, she's optimistic that this too shall pass. She's hopeful she and her mom will have Christmas, complete with these things, in a home of their own. "Smiles, a big pot of chili and a Christmas tree," Kayla smiles. "The only thing she wants for Christmas is a place to stay. It's just not fair to her," sobs Kayla's mom.